American Academy of Pediatrics Screen Time Recommendations and Tips

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Screen time recommendations:

This is a reference post so that as I post articles over the coming weeks about screen time research, finding, and conclusions I will be able to refer back to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations since this is considered by most people to be the standard, accepted set of recommendations for screen time.

The AAP article can be found here:

https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/American-Academy-of-Pediatrics-Announces-New-Recommendations-for-Childrens-Media-Use.aspx

These recommendations were published in October of 2016. They are the most recent recommendations published by the AAP that I can identify.

A summary of the basic recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics is as follows:

  • Children under the age of 18 months should avoid all use of screen media except video-chatting.
  • Children ages 18-24 months should introduce their children to high-quality programming if they choose to introduce them to digital media at all. Parents should watch the programming with their children and explain to them what they are seeing.
  • Children ages 2-5 should have screen time-limited to a maximum of 1 hour per day of high-quality programming. Parents should co-view the programming with their children to help them understand what they are seeing and to help them apply it to the world around them.
  • Children 6 years and older should have limits placed on their time using media applied on a consistent basis. The type of media they view should also be limited consistently. Ensure that media time is subordinate to other more important activities like sleep, exercise and other behaviors essential to health.
  • Communicate regularly and consistently with your children about online activities ensuring they are using safe practices and appropriate online behaviors and good net citizenship. One subject in particular that this addresses is bullying either online or in person.
Age Range Media per Day Comment
0-18 Months None Except video-chatting
18-24 Months Less than 1 hour Watch with parent, explain what they’re seeing
2-5 Years Max of 1 hour per day High-quality programming* co-viewed with parent, explain what they’re seeing and how it relates to their world
6-12 Years Limit time and ensure quality Limit time and monitor quality of media consistently. Ensure media does not replace important healthy activities, sleep, exercise, etc.
All   Ongoing communication about online citizenship and safety, respecting others online and offline

* Cited as resources for finding quality products were, Common Sense Media, PBS Kids, Sesame Workshop.

Children and Media Tips:

The full list from the American Academy of Pediatrics can be found online in their article “Children and Media Tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics”.

These tips were pulled from two AAP policies written in 2016 called “Media Use in School-Aged Children and Adolescents” and “Media and Young Minds” as well as a technical report titled “Children and Adolescents and Digital Media”.

“In a world where children are “growing up digital,” it’s important to help them learn healthy concepts of digital use and citizenship. Parents play an important role in teaching these skills. Here are a few tips from the AAP to help families manage the ever-changing digital landscape.”

  • Make your own family media use plan. Media should work for you and within your family values and parenting style. When used thoughtfully and appropriately, media can enhance daily life. But when used inappropriately or without thought, media can displace many important activities such as face-to-face interaction, family-time, outdoor-play, exercise, unplugged downtime and sleep. Make your plan at HealthyChildren.org/MediaUsePlan.
  • Treat media as you would any other environment in your child’s life. The same parenting guidelines apply in both real and virtual environments. Set limits; kids need and expect them. Know your children’s friends, both online and off. Know what platforms, software, and apps your children are using, what sites they are visiting on the web, and what they are doing online.
  • Set limits and encourage playtime. Media use, like all other activities, should have reasonable limits. Unstructured and offline play stimulates creativity. Make unplugged playtime a daily priority, especially for very young children.
  • Screen time shouldn’t always be alone time. Co-view, co-play and co-engage with your children when they are using screens – it encourages social interactions, bonding, and learning. Play a video game with your kids. It’s a good way to demonstrate good sportsmanship and gaming etiquette. Watch a show with them; you will have the opportunity to introduce and share your own life experiences and perspectives, and guidance. Don’t just monitor children online, interact with them – you can understand what they are doing and be a part of it.
  • Be a good role model. Teach and model kindness and good manners online. Because children are great mimics, limit your own media use. In fact, you’ll be more available for and connected with your children if you’re interacting, hugging and playing with them rather than simply staring at a screen. 
  • Know the value of face-to-face communication. Very young children learn best through two-way communication. Engaging in back-and-forth “talk time” is critical for language development. Conversations can be face-to-face or, if necessary, by video chat with a traveling parent or far-away grandparent. Research has shown that it’s that “back-and-forth conversation” that improves language skills—much more so than “passive” listening or one-way interaction with a screen.
  • Limit digital media for your youngest family members. Avoid digital media for toddlers younger than 18 to 24 months other than video chatting. For children 18 to 24 months, watch digital media with them because they learn from watching and talking with you. Limit screen use for preschool children, ages 2 to 5, to just 1 hour a day of high-quality programming. Again, co-viewing is best when possible and for young children they learn best when they are re-taught in the real world what they just learned through a screen. So, if Ernie just taught the letter D, you can reiterate this later when you are having dinner or spending time with your child.
  • Create tech-free zones. Keep family mealtimes, other family and social gatherings, and children’s bedrooms screen free. Turn off televisions that you aren’t watching, because background TV can get in the way of face-to-face time with kids. Recharge devices overnight—outside your child bedroom to help avoid the temptation to use them when they should be sleeping. These changes encourage more family time, healthier eating habits, and better sleep.
  • Don’t use technology as an emotional pacifier. Media can be very effective in keeping kids calm and quiet, but it should not be the only way they learn to calm down. Children need to be taught how to identify and handle strong emotions, come up with activities to manage boredom, or calm down through breathing, talking about ways to solve the problem, and finding other strategies for channeling emotions.
  • Apps for kids – do your homework. More than 80,000 apps are labeled as educational, but little research has demonstrated their actual quality. Products pitched as “interactive” should require more than “pushing and swiping.” Look to organizations like Common Sense Media (www.commonsensemedia.org) for reviews about age-appropriate apps, games and programs to guide you in making the best choices for your children.
  • It’s OK for your teen to be online. Online relationships are part of typical adolescent development. Social media can support teens as they explore and discover more about themselves and their place in the grown-up world. Just be sure your teen is behaving appropriately in both the real and online worlds. Many teens need to be reminded that a platform’s privacy settings do not make things actually “private” and that images, thoughts, and behaviors teens share online will instantly become a part of their digital footprint indefinitely. Keep lines of communication open and let them know you’re there if they have questions or concerns.
  • Warn children about the importance of privacy and the dangers of predators and sexting. Teens need to know that once content is shared with others, they will not be able to delete or remove it completely and includes texting of inappropriate pictures. They may also not know about or choose not to use privacy settings, and they need to be warned that sex offenders often use social networking, chat rooms, e-mail, and online gaming to contact and exploit children.
  • Remember: Kids will be kids. Kids will make mistakes using media. Try to handle errors with empathy and turn a mistake into a teachable moment. But some indiscretions, such as sexting, bullying, or posting self-harm images, may be a red flag that hints at trouble ahead. Parents must observe carefully their children’s behaviors and, if needed, enlist supportive professional help, including the family pediatrician.

Children and Media – Tips for Parents was written from two AAP policies, “Media Use in School-Aged Children and Adolescents” and “Media and Young Minds,” and the technical report entitled “Children and Adolescents and Digital Media,” which were published in the November 2016 edition of Pediatrics. They were also drawn from the proceedings of the AAP Sponsored Growing Up Digital: Media Research Symposium, a gathering of media experts, researchers and pediatricians held in 2015 to address new developments in research and media and their impact on children.

About the Author:

Terry has been an entrepreneur in the IT industry for over30 years. Go here to read his complete personal story, “Husband, father, Grandfather and IT Executive.” If you want to send Terry a quick message visit the contact page Here.

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Terry Preece

Terry Preece

Husband, Father, Grandfather, and IT Executive

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