Our children are growing up in the digital age. It is hard as parents to know just how much screen time is appropriate at what age for our children. Many parents shun device use altogether, whereas others parents find it essential for entertainment and education. How much screen time is too much?
When I was a child, screen time meant TV time. Now it refers to computers, video games, television, and personal devices. The opportunity for screen time throughout the day has grown exponentially from my childhood. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), kids are astonishingly spending 7 hours a day on “entertainment” media. 1)https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/Pages/Media-and-Children.aspx?rf=32524&nfstatus=401&nftoken=00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000&nfstatusdescription=ERROR%3a+No+local+token
If your child is getting the recommended sleep for their age, that means there is very little time if any at all outside of school, homework, and extracurricular activities for unstructured play.
Kids are spending more time with technology than they are in school!2)http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/01/06/461920593/kids-and-screen-time-a-peek-at-upcoming-guidance
Last year, the AAP revised their previous recommendations on screen time to reflect the growth of personal electronic devices. The old guidelines advised no screen time for children under two-years-old. For children two and older, the limit was two hours a day. 3)http://www.forbes.com/sites/jordanshapiro/2015/09/30/the-american-academy-of-pediatrics-just-changed-their-guidelines-on-kids-and-screen-time/#32942569137c
Studies have shown that excessive media use can lead to attention problems, school difficulties, sleep and eating disorders, and obesity. In addition, the Internet and cell phones can provide platforms for illicit and risky behaviors.
By limiting screen time and offering educational media and non-electronic formats such as books, newspapers and board games, and watching television with their children, parents can help guide their children’s media experience. Putting questionable content into context and teaching kids about advertising contributes to their media literacy.
The AAP recommends that parents establish “screen-free” zones at home by making sure there are no televisions, computers or video games in children’s bedrooms, and by turning off the TV during dinner. Children and teens should engage with entertainment media for no more than one or two hours per day, and that should be high-quality content. It is important for kids to spend time on outdoor play, reading, hobbies, and using their imaginations in free play.
Television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age 2. A child’s brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.4)https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/Pages/Media-and-Children.aspx?rf=32524&nfstatus=401&nftoken=00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000&nfstatusdescription=ERROR%3a+No+local+token
2015 Screen Time AAP Guidelines
The two-hour screen time for children over two was developed before the first iPad even came out. Clearly, times have changed. The 2015 AAP recommendations steer away from set restrictions but instead offer guidelines to help parents moderate screen time:
- Media is just another environment. Children do the same things they have always done, only virtually. Like any environment, media can have positive and negative effects.
- Parenting has not changed. The same parenting rules apply to your children’s real and virtual environments. Play with them. Set limits; kids need and expect them. Teach kindness. Be involved. Know their friends and where they are going with them.
- Role modeling is critical. Limit your own media use, and model online etiquette. Attentive parenting requires face time away from screens.
- We learn from each other. Neuroscience research shows that very young children learn best via two-way communication. “Talk time” between caregiver and child remains critical for language development. Passive video presentations do not lead to language learning in infants and young toddlers. The more media engender live interactions, the more educational value they may hold (e.g., a toddler chatting by video with a parent who is traveling). Optimal educational media opportunities begin after age 2, when media may play a role in bridging the learning achievement gap.
- Content matters.The quality of content is more important than the platform or time spent with media. Prioritize how your child spends his time rather than just setting a timer.
- Curation helps. More than 80,000 apps are labeled as education- al, but little research validates their quality (Hirsh-Pasek K, Psych Science. 2015;16:3-34). An interactive product requires more than “pushing and swiping” to teach. Look to organizations like Common Sense Media (www.commonsensemedia.org) that review age-appropriate apps, games and programs.
- Co-engagement counts. Family participation with media fa- cilitates social interactions and learning. Play a video game with your kids. Your perspective influences how your children understand their media experience. For infants and toddlers, co-viewing is essential.
- Playtime is important. Unstructured playtime stimulates cre- ativity. Prioritize daily unplugged playtime, especially for the very young.
- Set limits. Tech use, like all other activities, should have reasonable limits. Does your child’s technology use help or hinder participation in other activities?
- It’s OK for your teen to be online. Online relationships are integral to adolescent development. Social media can support identity formation. Teach your teen appropriate behaviors that apply in both the real and online worlds. Ask teens to demon- strate what they are doing online to help you understand both content and context.
- Create tech-free zones. Preserve family mealtime. Recharge de- vices overnight outside your child’s bedroom. These actions en- courage family time, healthier eating habits and healthier sleep.
- Kids will be kids. Kids will make mistakes using media. These can be teachable moments if handled with empathy. Certain aberrations, however, such as sexting or posting self-harm images, signal a need to assess youths for other risk-taking behaviors.5)http://preschool.uen.org/docs/AAPNews-2015-Brown-54.pdf
These guidelines are more complicated than a simple two-hour limit, yet they recognize the changing environment and culture technology has created. Screens are everywhere. They are on gas pumps, waiting rooms, stores, etc. We are constantly bombarded with media. So are our children. According to the AAP:
Today, more than 30% of U.S. children first play with a mobile device when they still are in diapers, according to Common Sense Media. Furthermore, almost 75% of 13- to 17-year-olds have smartphones, and 24% admit using their phones almost constantly, according to the Pew Research Center.6)http://preschool.uen.org/docs/AAPNews-2015-Brown-54.pdf
Technology is unavoidable. It’s a tool. Our children must learn how to be digital citizens and learn to be responsible.
If your child is one of the 30% using technology while still in diapers, there are products that can help protect your devices. We were sent a Kid Lid laptop protector.
Kid Lid® Protect Board is a simple and innovative solution that protects the keyboard when children use your laptop. The patented design easily slips over your screen creating a smooth protective outer surface that prevents access to the keyboard and the application from interruption from even the most rambunctious child.
The Protect board is dishwasher safe and universally fits all laptops 15” or 13” both Mac and PC and comes with a removable elastic strap. Available in glossy white.
- Allows child to video chat without unintended interruption
- Keeps your content safe from accidental keyboard input
- Perfect for extra surface on plane
- Keeps applications running and data intact when child’s using your laptop
- Dishwasher safe
- Universally fit all laptops 15” or 13” both Mac and PC
- Universally fits all 13” Laptops (Mac & PC)
- Certified BPA-free and no Phthalates.
This product is bpa and phthalate free. I think it would be very useful for traveling. When my daughter was three-years-old, we would use our laptop to play dvds in the car and on planes. I always worried something would spill. The Kid Lid also protects from banging on keys. Also, the Kid Lid is great product for using Facetime to keep in touch with grandparents and other relatives.
Not all technology is created equal, and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) has great resources that go beyond the AAP guidelines, especially for early childhood. The CCFC raises a lot of concerns.
Research links many of the health and social problems facing children today to hours spent with screens.
The erosion of creative play and interaction with caring adults: Studies show that the more time infants, toddlers, and preschoolers spend with screens, the less time they spend engaged in two activities essential to healthy development and learning. Screen-time takes children away from hands-on creative play—the kind of give-and-take activities that children generate and control, and that are specific to their interests and abilities.
Screens also take time away from children’s interactions with caring adults. Even when parents co-view television or videos with children, they spend less time engaged in other activities with their children.41 And parents talk less to children when they are watching television together than when they are engaged in other activities. In fact, they talk less to children when television is on in the background as well. Newer technologies may also interfere with parent-child conversations. The so-called interactive electronic books—in which screen images respond to touch with sound effects or words or simple movements—are less likely to induce the kind of adult-child interactions that promote literacy than traditional books do.7)http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org/sites/default/files/facingthescreendilemma.pdf
Screen free areas of the house, as well as modeling and monitoring technology use are important. Our devices have changed the way we communicate. Our children will be the first to grow up with this amount of information at their fingertips. Outright denial of screen time will not teach them proper use.
My personal parenting strategy for screen time is similar to that of teaching healthy eating habits. The ultimate goal is that children learn self-monitoring. I try to model appropriate use (I do better with healthy eating than I do device use :(). I also don’t instill strict limits.
I want my children to eat when hungry, make wise food choices, and to not binge out on sweets. I want the same thing for their technology use. I believe children can learn and take personal responsibility that often doesn’t come from strict rules. We are still learning on this journey, but so far I would say it has been successful with my teenager daughter. When I compare her usage, content, and social media persona in comparison to her friends, and I am proud.
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