Screen Time, What Every Parent Should Know

The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) published new recommendations for screen time for children. These recommendations are important as they are based on studies in delays in language acquisition, social-emotional development, physical development, and attention related to screen time engaged in by young children. Also, because only 16% of pediatricians in the country talk about media use, parents need to educate themselves.

Knowing that each child is unique and each child’s environment, developmental level, personal experience, circumstances and health differ, consider the following general recommendations from the AAP report:

  • Co-viewing or joint media engagement. Sit with your children while they view something and talk with them, explaining, asking questions, and sharing feelings
  • Screen-free bedrooms. Keep bedrooms for resting, books, and playing with open-ended toys.
  • Setting screen time limits. Make sure your child has time for exercise, imaginative play and creative activities.
  • Discouraging screen time for children under 18 months (except for video chat). Children younger than 18 months cannot make sense of screen time and do not benefit from it. 
  • Less than 1 hour/day of educational screen time for children older than 2 years. There are many other things your child can do!

When monitoring what children watch, adults need to ask themselves if the content is violent, if it is developmentally appropriate and if it is educational. Better shows for young children are shows that are in a narrative format and the average shot length is no less than 7 seconds. Scenes in children’s media are getting shorter (3 seconds), making it difficult for young children to follow.

Here there are some possible “media diet ideas” for parents to use with their children:

  • Low Tech or no Tech Tuesdays
  • Digital free dinners
  • Screen free Sundays
  • No screens after 7pm
  • Tech-free home zones
  • Decreasing or eliminating background TV
  • Replacing sedentary screen time with physical movement screen time (e.g. yoga videos, gonoodle.com)
  • Book sharing before bed and nap
  • Interacting with voices AND eyes
  • Pretend play every day 

Parenting is a work of love. This love includes making wise choices about how our children spend their time, and the quality of their interactions. Their social, emotional and cognitive development depends on it!

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