By Dr. Maria Simbra

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — For a toddler, the lights, sounds and swipes on a smart phone or tablet can be too cool to resist.

It seems to be all the rage, even for parents.

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“People like to do what they think is popular. All my friends’ kids have pads, I should have one, too, or somehow I’m depriving my child,” says Dr. Mark Diamond of Children’s Community Pediatrics.

“We are all very busy, and the screen has become a tool of parenting,” Dr. Ed King of Pediatric Alliance points out.

Kids can learn letters, numbers, colors, common objects — but is all that screen time actually bad for your child’s development?

“If a child spends too much time in front of a tablet, as the Academy of Pediatrics likes to say, they don’t run around. They don’t play,” says Dr. Diamond.

“They’re only using one finger on a two-dimensional subject, instead of all five or ten in a three-dimensional world,” says Dr. King.

“Studies have shown that. Children who spend too much time in front of a screen aren’t developing as well socially, they’re not seeing people,” says Dr. Diamond.

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“There’s definitely research that shows language delays that correlate with the amount of screen time kids get,” says Dr. King.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends for kids two and up, no more than two hours of screen time a day — that’s any screen: phones, tablets, computers, televisions. For children younger than 2, zero screen time.

Getting kids to give it up starts with parents modeling the desired behavior. That means setting limits for themselves.

“If kids look up and see their parents behind a screen 24-7, they’re going to want to do that,” says Dr. King.

Also, reshaping the environment to make it less centered around screens can help. For example, have screen-free zones in the house.

“Kids do not need very fancy things to be entertained,” says Dr. King. “Simple toys, and a parent’s face that they can learn interactions from, none of which comes from a screen.”

Pediatricians say, you need to be the boss of your kid. Set limits, stow the personal hand held electronic devices, and instead have your kids play ride bikes, jump rope, play dress up, draw pictures, read books — anything to get their minds and bodies to grow in other ways.

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