In today’s technological world, humans have become dependent on smartphones and tablets for a multitude of purposes. Parents even use these devices to keep their children preoccupied or to entertain them. Researchers agree there are pros and cons to children using technology, but the American Academy of Pediatrics has set new limitations on how much screen time children should be getting.
In the AAP national conference that was held earlier this month, the 10,000 pediatricians in attendance discussed how much screen time should be allotted for different age groups. Previously, the AAP recommended no more than two hours of screen time for children older than two, but have decided that this is too broad.
“It doesn’t make sense to make a blanket statement of screen time anymore,” said Dr. Yolanda Reid Chasiakos.
Part of the reason for redefining and assessing how much screen time children should be exposed to is because of the variety of technology there is. In the past, it was just television, but now there’s computers, smartphones, and tablets that all need to be considered when discussing how much time children should be allowed to look at the screens.
The AAP now recommends that children ages two to five should receive no more than one hour a day of screen time. As for children over the age of six, pediatricians have recommended that parents partake in a Family Media Use Plan to determine how much time their children should interact with screens. It’s also important to note that children younger than 18 months should receive no screen time other than video chatting.
For the two to five year old range, the AAP also recommends that parents watch whatever program their children is viewing with them. This way, parents can explain the content and apply it to their children’s lives.
For all ages, it’s recommended that only “high-quality” programming be viewed. A few examples the AAP gives as high-quality programming is PBS and Sesame Workshop. The AAP also states that media use should be used to enhance creativity, and be used as a tool of learning.
Jenny Radesky MD, the lead author of the policy statement, “Media and Young Minds,” reminded parents that too much media use can in fact be harmful. According to Radesky, excessive screen time can cut into the crucial time that children need for play, rest, learning, and interacting with other people.
As for toddlers and infants, the AAP recommends only video chatting, because this can help increase language in children.
One of the biggest teaching points being stressed is that parents monitor what their children are viewing and interacting with, and to also have open communication about why it’s important to set time boundaries on these technological devices.
For the most part, it’s not screen time in itself that is negative; it’s what’s on the screen. Studies have been conducted to figure out what causes positive outcomes and what causes negative outcomes of different programs, but such research is still in early stages. However, three new academic documents will be released in November that explore the topic of media use in children.