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Doctors Offer New Screen Time Guidelines For Children

Dorathy Gass

As per the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), in this day and age screen time for kids of any age should be limited. The AAP recently hosted a conference on this topic in San Francisco where approximately 10,000 pediatricians gathered to talk about screen time guideline recommendations for 2017. Digital media in general was the topic, where social media, cyberbullying, and screen time were top discussions for the group.

The AAP had set a time limit to screen time previously at no more than two hours for children aged two and up. In today’s world, where digital media is everywhere, screen time can be hard thing to limit.

As lead author of the Children and Adolescents and Digital Media Technical Report, Dr. Yolanda Reid Chassiakos chimed in on this idea stating that nowadays it does not make sense to offer a blanket two-hour screen time limitation. For some kiddos, this time frame may actually be excessive.

In regards to the new guidelines, AAP clarifies ‘screen time’ as activities around digital media in regards to entertainment. Other uses for media, like online homework as an example, does not count in this overall screen time guideline.

What the AAP is now recommending is that kids two to five should be limited to one hour each day when it comes to screen time. Parents can decipher what restrictions should be placed on kids six years and older when it comes to screen time, however the AAP are also advising that this age group be monitored on the types of digital media that they are exposed to. While this is left to the discretion of parents, as children and family dynamics differ greatly across the nation, a focus on productivity and less on entertainment should be there. It’s also important to monitor social media use for tweens and teens.

Additionally, CNN reported that the AAP is stating that babies 18 months of age or younger should not have any digital media exposure. Chassiakos adds that it is important to ban screen times for babies in this age bracket due to healthy connections between parent and child, as well as brain development. She adds that the activity and noise related to media can be distracting for the baby, and the lights and sounds can also cause overstimulation, which can lead to sleep issues and distress. The most negative effect on this age group is that screen time can cause a disconnect. Chassiakos notes that the face-to-face interaction when breastfeeding is important to bonding. If a parent is fixed on their phone or television while breastfeeding, this can deprive a child of that type attention and may cause behavioral issues in the long run.

Lastly, the AAP offers some tips on how to teach your children to develop some healthy habits when it comes to digital media. First and foremost, be a role model. If you are glued to your tablet or smartphone 24/7, your child will see this as the norm. Smart devices should not be at the dinner table or even allowed upstairs in your child’s room during bedtime routines. While the AAP isn’t suggesting to eliminate all media use, like playing the odd video game for fun with your kids, families should also engage in media-free activities. Screens should also not replace or infringe on communication, fitness activities, or sleep time.

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