Dear Jacqui, I’m worried that children are spending too much time on screens and don’t seem to have enough time to play. How can parents respond to this?

This is an area of real concern. We know that 10 percent of children have speech, language, and communication needs (SLCN) across the population regardless of screen time. However, there will be a large number of children, in addition to this, whose communication skills, cognitive and physical development, and overall mental health and wellbeing will be adversely affected by too much screen time. So I advise some basic principles that involve parents’ TIME:

  1. Time: Slow down the pace of life, and make spending time with your child a priority. Schedule it in daily. Play is a child’s work.
  2. Important: It is important to switch off screens in the home and limit the time – for adults and children.
  3. Manage: Manage the allocated play time to do a variety of activities appropriate to the age of the child – go to the park, ride bikes, use outdoor play equipment, go swimming, prepare a healthy picnic in the garden, make a pretend shop, do arts and crafts, build Lego, make play mobile scenes and tell stories, play board games, and read books.
  4. Eye contact: Make sure that you get down on your child’s level and make eye contact as you listen to them and talk to them about: daily events – past, present and future, feelings, word meanings, and imagine stories together.