Parenting is a heck of a lot more complicated than it used to be. For one, raising a child in a hyper-connected world raises a lot of questions about the benefits and drawbacks of technology use. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does its best to offer answers, and has just updated its recommendations on media use for kids.
Today, October 21, the AAP put out two updates, both published in the journal Pediatrics: “Media and Young Minds” recommendations for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers [PDF]; and “Media Use in School-Aged Children and Adolescents” [PDF]. The upshot of both is that parents should approach the screen-time issue with a strategy.
“Families should proactively think about their children’s media use and talk with children about it,” report author Jenny Radesky said in a statement, “because too much media use can mean that children don’t have enough time during the day to play, study, talk, or sleep. What’s most important is that parents be their child’s ‘media mentor.’ That means teaching them how to use it as a tool to create, connect, and learn.”
The new recommendations lift the AAP’s previous ban on screen time for kids under 2 years old, but it still warns parents and pediatricians to restrict media time for very small children.
Other recommendations include:
- For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting. Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality and interactive programming, and watch it with their children to help them understand what they’re seeing.
- For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.
- For children ages 6 and older, place consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity, and other behaviors essential to health.
- Designate media-free times together, such as dinner or driving, as well as media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms.
- Have ongoing communication about online citizenship and safety, including treating others with respect online and offline.
Older kids and teens are not immune to media influence, the report cautions. Scores of studies have linked childhood consumption of TV and other media to lower self-esteem, unrealistic expectations, and believing harmful stereotypes.
Physician and education expert Megan Moreno co-authored the policy report on media use in older children. “Parents play an important role in helping children and teens navigate media, which can have both positive and negative effects,” she said. “Parents can set expectations and boundaries to make sure their children’s media experience is a positive one. The key is mindful use of media within a family.”
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