Parents, it is now okay to let your little one video chat (with conditions, of course), according to new policies recently released by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
AAP has finally updated its recommendations for children’s screen time to take into account the ubiquitous nature of digital media in today’s technology-driven world.
Previously, the AAP has been strict with its recommendation, saying that children below 2 years old should not be allowed any screen time whatsoever. But the expert group now acknowledges that digital media does have positive effects as well -- provided that families “maintain a healthy media diet.” It’s still a parent’s responsibility to guide their children on the use of digital media.
“Families should proactively think about their children’s media use and talk with children about it, because too much media use can mean that children don’t have enough time during the day to play, study, talk, or sleep,” said Jenny Radesky, MD, FAAP, lead author of the policy statement, “Media and Young Minds,” which focuses on infants, toddlers and pre-school children.
“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,” adds Dr. Radesky.
According to the new recommendations, children below 18 months should avoid screens altogether, and the only exception is when it’s used for video-chatting. Children a little older, those between 18 and 24 months, are allowed screens provided that parents choose high-quality programming. The AAP gives Sesame Street as an example of this, meaning age-appropriate educational children’s shows should be a safe bet. Parents should co-watch with their toddlers as well, says the AAP.
For kids ages 2 to 5 years old, screen time should be at a maximum of 1 hour a day. This, again, should be composed of high-quality programs with parents co-watching to ensure the kids understand what they’re seeing and are able to apply what they’ve gained from the shows to the world around them.
To complement the policy, the AAP has created an online tool to help families create a personalized “Family Media Use Plan.” This plan can be utilized to set screen time limits for children 6 years old and above. These limits should include total time spent on using media and type of media. The AAP also stresses that the limits and rules should be consistent. Follow-through is essential.
“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,” says Megan Moreno, MD, MSEd, MPH, FAAP, lead author of the policy statement “Media Use in School-Aged Children and Adolescents.”
Families should also designate screen-free areas in the house such as bedrooms. Plus, there should also be screen-free times of the day, like during family dinner (something the Pope also advised parents to do).
Your child’s screen time should not displace and replace physical activity, hands-on-exploration and face-to-face social interaction as this is when things start to get problematic, says the AAP. Screen time shouldn’t harm the amount and quality of sleep your child gets as well.
When in doubt, always remember what Dr. Radesky said, media should be used as a tool for your child to create, connect and learn -- and sometimes, as a little break for tired parents to simply sit down and watch a show with their little ones.