Swedish pediatricians have issued new guidelines recommending that children under the age of two avoid all digital screens, including smartphones, tablets, and televisions. The guidelines also recommend that toddlers and preschoolers ages two to five limit limit screen time to one hour per day.

Experts argue that young children's brains are not yet mature enough to healthily process information from digital screens. They also note that excessive screen time can lead to a number of long-term developmental problems, including:

  • Irritability
  • Poor concentration
  • Behavioral problems
  • Childhood depression

In addition, the Swedish Association of Pediatricians strongly advocates for a cultural shift with regard to supervising screen time for young children. Putting emphasis on the potential long-term developmental hazards of excessive digital media exposure, they urge parents and policymakers to adopt stricter rules on the media consumption of society's youngest members.

Why is screen time harmful for young children?

There are several reasons why screen time can be harmful for young children. First, their brains are still developing, and they are more vulnerable to the effects of overstimulation. Digital screens produce a lot of visual and auditory stimuli, which can be overwhelming for young children and lead to difficulty paying attention and concentrating.

Second, excessive screen time can displace other important activities, such as play and interaction with other people. Play is essential for children's cognitive, social, and emotional development. Interaction with others helps children learn to communicate, cooperate, and resolve conflicts.

Third, some of the content that children are exposed to on digital screens can be violent, disturbing, or inappropriate. Those can have a negative impact on children's emotional well-being and can lead to nightmares, anxiety, and other problems.

What can parents do to limit their child's screen time?

There are many things parents can do to limit their child's screen time, such as:

  • Setting clear rules and limits on screen time
  • Avoiding the use of screens an hour before bed
  • Providing children with other activities to do, like playing, reading, and spending time outdoors
  • Modeling healthy screen time habits

The new guidelines from Swedish pediatricians are a timely reminder of the importance of limiting digital media exposure for young children. And parents should strive to follow those to help their children develop healthy habits regarding digital media consumption.

Picture: Smiling baby using a smartphone (ChildUp & DALL-E - 2023)