The American Academy of Pediatrics has amended their previous guidelines about screen time for babies and toddlers. The AAP now says it’s acceptable for babies to Skype or FaceTime with distant family and for older children and teens to do some of their socializing, learning and playing online. But, the AAP maintains that these activities are not as important as and must cease for sleep, exercise, food, conversation and face to face interaction with others. The new set of guidelines replaces longstanding recommendations that children under age 2 avoid all screens and that older children and teens use digital media for no more than an hour or two a day.
Time on computers, phones, tablets and other devices “is not evil, it does not need to be avoided,” said Megan Moreno an associate professor of adolescent medicine at Seattle Children’s Hospital, and a guideline author. “It just needs to be balanced with all the other things kids need.”
The pediatricians stuck with a no-screens recommendation for children younger than 18-to-24-months old with one exception: video chatting. Talking with distant family members via services such as Skype and FaceTime can help build relationships, the doctors say. They still maintain that there’s little evidence babies can understand or benefit from watching TV, using apps or engaging in other online activities.
If parents want to introduce shows and apps to children ages 18-24 months it is important that parents are playing and interacting with them. Phones, iPads and other devices should not replace parental interaction and become “free” babysitting. From ages two to five, the doctors recommend a one hour or less a day and urge parents to keep participating, and to choose only high-quality programming from sources such as PBS Kids and Sesame Workshop.
The guidelines urge families with older children to carve out media limits in a day that should include at least an hour of physical activity and adequate sleep (8 to 12 hours, depending on age), as well as quality family time. Such limits will reduce risks, such as obesity, lost sleep and impaired school performance, while allowing kids to connect online with friends and family and learn about the broader world.
The doctors also recommend that parents:
• Ban devices and tvs an hour before bed and in bedrooms overnight. The light and noise can disrupt sleep.
• Discourage use of entertainment media during homework time. Such multitasking has been shown to interfere with learning.
• Designate media-free places and times (such as dinner time) for all family members, including adults.
• Continue to watch what kids watch and talk to them about online bullying, sexting and other hazards.
(source: USA Today)