AAP digital media guidelines help kids strike the right balance
Kids today are growing up immersed in digital media. From streaming TV and movies to video games and social media, there’s no denying screen time is a way of life for them.
So it’s no surprise that children spend an average of seven hours each day on entertainment media, including TV, tablets, smartphones and computers, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
The good news is media can have a positive impact on kids, contrary to what was once believed. It can be creative and engaging to spark imaginations, as well as educational.
“There are a lot of apps that offer educational value, helping kids build academic, social engagement and emotional skills, when used appropriately,” said Dr. Rebecca Lieb, clinical psychologist and director of the Early Childhood Assessment Clinic at Akron Children’s Hospital. “Also, schools are moving toward more electronic formats for education, so kids need to be computer savvy to be academically successful.”
Parents just need to make sure kids strike the right balance. Too much screen time has been shown to put them at risk for obesity, sleep issues and negative performance in school.
The AAP recognizes the ubiquitous role of media in children’s lives and that’s why the organization delineates its digital media recommendations based on age and how it’s used.
The AAP recommends parents of children ages 6 and older place consistent limits on the time spent using media, as well as the types of media, while ensuring media doesn’t take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health.
You should also designate media-free times together, such as dinner or driving, as well as media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms. Be sure to talk about online citizenship and safety, including treating others with respect online and offline.
Dr. Lieb understands there is a lot of room for interpretation. She encourages families to make media use the least enviable activity. Going to a friend’s house, gymnastics class or a youth group meeting should be the higher priority.
For teens, the AAP advises parents to teach their kids appropriate behaviors that apply in both the real and online worlds. They should ask their teen to demonstrate what they’re doing online to help parents understand both content and context.
It’s OK for teens to be online because online relationships are integral to adolescent development. Also, social media can support identity formation.
“For teens, it’s not a case of allowing or not allowing them to use media, but instead monitoring what they’re using and teaching them appropriate behaviors online,” Dr. Lieb said.