An updated policy statement from the AAP’s Council on Communications and Media seeks to clarify its advice on the use of electronic media by children and their families. Previously it was recommended that children under 2 years of age avoid all screens — televisions, video games, computers, laptops, tablets, and cellphones — and that children older than 2 and teenagers limit their screen time to no more than an hour or two each day. Now, Kim Painter says, it appears that pediatricians are starting to lighten up, even if it’s just a little bit:
The American Academy of Pediatrics, amending earlier advice, now says it’s OK for babies to Skype or Face Time with grandma and grandpa, and for older children and teens to do some of their socializing, learning and playing online – as long as they put down their devices long enough to sleep, exercise, eat, converse and otherwise engage in rich offline lives.
Unstructured, unplugged, and solitary playtime is extremely important for normal child development, allowing children to discover things on their own and learn about the world around them. But electronic media pervades all our lives — at home, at school, at work, and at play. It doesn’t seem reasonable, or even possible, to say “no” to electronic screen time. The AAP recognizes, however, that screen time for all age groups should require parental supervision. Here are the updated guidelines regarding screen time for children which I think all parents will appreciate:
- Avoid digital media use (except video-chatting) in children younger than 18 to 24 months.
- For children ages 18 to 24 months of age, if you want to introduce digital media, choose high-quality programming and use media together with your child.
- Avoid solo media use in this age group.
- Do not feel pressured to introduce technology early; interfaces are so intuitive that children will figure them out quickly once they start using them at home or in school.
- For children 2 to 5 years of age, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programming, coview with your children, help children understand what they are seeing, and help them apply what they learn to the world around them.
- Avoid fast-paced programs (young children do not understand them as well), apps with lots of distracting content, and any violent content.
- Turn off televisions and other devices when not in use.
- Avoid using media as the only way to calm your child. Although there are intermittent times (eg, medical procedures, airplane flights) when media is useful as a soothing strategy, there is concern that using media as strategy to calm could lead to problems with limit setting or the inability of children to develop their own emotion regulation. Ask your pediatrician for help if needed.
- Monitor children’s media content and what apps are used or downloaded. Test apps before the child uses them, play together, and ask the child what he or she thinks about the app.
- Keep bedrooms, mealtimes, and parent–child playtimes screen free for children and parents. Parents can set a “do not disturb” option on their phones during these times.
- No screens 1 hour before bedtime, and remove devices from bedrooms before bed.
- Consult the American Academy of Pediatrics Family Media Use Plan, available at: www.healthychildren.org/MediaUsePlan.