Have you had that conversation (a monologue, it seems) before?
“You spend all day on your cellphone texting everyone, but you won’t answer the phone and talk to your grandma?”
“Let’s bring the iPad to the restaurant and Joey can watch it while we have a nice, quiet dinner!”
Doesn’t work out that way, does it?
When I was a kid, we had two televisions in our house. Both were black and white until I was ten, when my parents gave me and my brother a choice: a vacation to the Virgin Islands or a new color TV to watch the Super Bowl! (My brother was never a Jets fan like me and my parents — never even a football fan, actually — and, to this day, I don’t think he has forgiven me!) Granted, there wasn’t much to watch in those days, and my mother forbade us to watch The Three Stooges! She wasn’t too fond of Tom and Jerry, or The Bugs Bunny Show, or Roadrunner, either: “Too busy being mean to each other or trying to kill each other. That’s not funny!” is what she would tell us. Of course, she was right about the meanness and killing part. And I know she thought it was funny. Just not for little kids. Her little kids. So there was never an argument. We just turned off the TV and went outside.
Today, with all the electronic devices that permeate our kids’ lives, parents have a little help:
In a newly revised policy statement released today, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents make a media use plan for their families that takes into account not only the quantity, but the quality and location of media used, and includes mealtime and bedtime curfews for media devices. It also encourages keeping all screen media (TVs, computers, tablets, etc.) out of kids’ bedrooms.
The group reiterates its recommendation to limit the amount of total entertainment screen time to less than two hours a day and to discourage all screen media exposure for children under age 2.
Michelle Healy goes to the source, and he couldn’t be more blunt:
“We are worried that a lot of parents are clueless about their kids’ media use and how to manage it appropriately,” says Victor Strasburger, a professor of pediatrics at the University of New Mexico and co-author of the AAP policy statement, released at the group’s national conference in Orlando, Fla.
They are “spending more time with media than they are in school. They are spending more time with media than in any activity other than sleeping. You could make the argument that media have taken over the primary role of teaching kids from schools and parents in many cases,” says Strasburger.
From the AAP’s press release:
The AAP advocates for better and more research about how media affects youth. Excessive media use has been associated with obesity, lack of sleep, school problems, aggression and other behavior issues. A recent study shows that the average 8- to 10-year-old spends nearly 8 hours a day with different media, and older children and teens spend more than 11 hours per day. Kids who have a TV in their bedroom spend more time with media. About 75 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds own cell phones, and nearly all teenagers use text messaging.
The emphasis above is mine. That’s a lot of screen time, isn’t it?
The AAP policy statement has the following recommendations for parents:
- Parents can model effective “media diets” to help their children learn to be selective and healthy in what they consume. Take an active role in children’s media education by co-viewing programs with them and discussing values.
- Make a media use plan, including mealtime and bedtime curfews for media devices. Screens should be kept out of kids’ bedrooms.
- Limit entertainment screen time to less than one or two hours per day; in children under 2, discourage screen media exposure.
Look. I like my electronics as much as the next guy. Ok, maybe more. Kids can acquire so much interesting and educational information with these devices and programs and websites and apps. Schools use these devices with increasing frequency. If you believe, as I do, in the power of multisensory learning, this should really be an exciting time to be an educator, and an even better time to be a student. Still, parents should be cognizant of what their kids are watching and who they are watching with. Browser histories should be checked regularly. And cell phones should be charged at night in a designated charging area that is not a child’s bedroom. You should feel free to inform your child that their texts must not be deleted, and that you will be checking them nightly. And you should.