We now know that it is better to limit the time spent by children in front of screens. Before 3 years, any exposure is even strongly discouraged. But few households do not have at least a phone or a computer, so what to do when the child grows up and needs a screen? What can we offer to watch at 5, 7 or 11 and for how long? To respond to these increasingly present issues, we have seen the emergence of 3-6-9-12 rule, a sort of guide for using screens. Read on for better manage screen times by age and to find out which content is suitable for the youngest according to this principle.
Before 3 years: avoid screens as much as possible and promote the discovery of reality
Before 3 years, it is good to limit the time spent in front of screens as much as possible. Your child is at an age where he discovers what surrounds him thanks to his 5 senses. He therefore needs before anything else to touch, smell, taste, etc.
Even though toddlers seem fascinated, in truth their brains do not develop any essential skills in front of screens. Learning to speak, recognize faces and expressions or even move and walk is not done in front of a screen.
Repeated exposure can even hinder their development because they are often passive and do not speak, the gaze is fixed and remains exposed to the virtual, everything remains intangible. In addition, the child can hardly perceive the real size of what he sees since everything is limited to the dimensions of the screen.
The same goes for so-called educational programs, where listening is in reality passive. Without being able to reinvest what he hears or to make the connection with real situations, it does not benefit your baby.
Remember, too, that your child builds himself by observing you. If he’s attracted to screens, it’s not just because of the sounds and images they produce, but also because he sees you using them. Before 3 years old, the child needs the eyes of his parents and interact with them.
Around 2 and a half years old, we can start the exhibition with interactive applications in the company of an adult and on very short times: 5 to 10 minutess.
Ages 3 to 6: 20-minute screen sessions and no personal game console
Between 3 and 6 years old, children socialize and enter the imitation phase. They play at behaving like the grown-ups and want to be like them. They may want to play on mom’s laptop or big sibling’s game console. The child is in the process of construction and yet has an enormous need to manipulate real objects in order to develop all of his neural connections.
Two other major problems with screens at this age are the reward system and the short duration of content. Stars appear when you cross an obstacle or virtual confetti are visible when you line up 3 candies. The brain loves the rewards and the instant.
But in real life, nothing happens if you complete a puzzle you’ve spent 10 minutes on, unless an adult is nearby congratulating the child. It is for this reason that younger people may come to prefer virtual play to real objects.
Between 3 and 6 years old, the personal game console is therefore really to be avoided. The child needs to learn to solve difficulties and persevere without the help of artificial intelligence to provide him with clues and praise him at every step. This is how he learns patience and concentration. From 3 to 6 years, screen time should be limited to 20 minutes and 1 hour sessions per day maximum, always accompanied.
Ages 6 to 9: screen time of 30 to 45 minutes to discover the Internet, create and learn
Children aged 6 to 9 are generally in demand for screens and this may be a good time to start presenting more complex games and discovering the Internet.
The idea is to offer interactive content in which the children will be able to exercise their capacities of reflection, creation and concentration.
We can think for example of Scratch, a free programming software designed for children or some very simple video editing applications. You can also download free applications for making virtual drawings.
This can be the opportunity to give the child a digital camera or your old smartphone without a sim card. Show him how to take a photo and ask him to be the “reporter” for some family outings, for example.
Also talk about the age at which you will authorize a personal phone. Take the opportunity to discuss together image rights, the dangers of photo editing and modified images or false that can circulate on the Internet. These discovery sessions in front of the screens must not exceed 30 minutes at 6 or 7 years old and 45 minutes at 8 or 9 years old.
From 9 to 12 years old: 1 hour maximum screen by taming the risks of social networks and Internet
In the pre-adolescence phase, between the ages of 9 and 12, children are increasingly interested in social networks. TikTok is particularly popular with younger people who want to have fun creating videos, but without really perceiving the dangers represented by this kind of platform.
So now is the perfect time to inform and prevent the risks of cyberstalking with your child. It is essential to explain that everything that is published on the Internet or on networks belongs to the public domain, that the contents are almost indelible there and that there is a great deal of editing and manipulation of the image and information.
Between the ages of 9 and 12, children must learn to self-regulate and to keep track of the time spent in front of the screens themselves., not exceeding 1 hour per day at 12 years old.
Always talk about what he’s watching, discuss what interests him without judgment. Your child should feel confident and free to talk to you if they stumble upon inappropriate content. Also show them how to report such content.
From 13 years old: allow social networks under surveillance and together define screen time
From 13 years old, the child becomes a teenager and he reaches the minimum age officially authorized by the majority of social networks. Rather than wanting to keep it as far away as possible, instead teach him how to use it and frankly discuss your fears about using the Internet independently. Define together the time allocated to the screens and always keep an eye on his posts.
Teach your teen to create a private profile and protect their conversations. Maintain limits on the use of screens at night or during working hours. Encourage your child to use the Internet by staying in touch with reality, for example by chatting with friends that he can also see “in real life” rather than with strangers from whom he can receive connection requests.
Do not let him eat in front of the screens or substitute them for moments spent with family or friends. It must remain a pleasure or an entertainment and not an addiction. Even if it doesn’t always show it, your teen still needs affection and recognition from you. Networks should therefore not play this role, risk of creating addiction to likes and subscribers.
Manage screen time by age and stage of development of the child
Initiated by Serge Tisseron, psychiatrist and doctor in psychology, the 3-6-9-12 rule aims to guide parents and stakeholders in the field of childhood in the use of screens. Not all content should be avoided, but it should simply be used in a reasonable manner according to the age, level of maturity and development of the child. Remember this: before 3 years, as few screens as possible; up to 6 years, short periods accompanied or interactive games, up to 9 years, encourage creative content and up to 12 years raise awareness of the risks of the Internet and networks. And you, what uses of screens do your children have?