A 2-year-old is not a 12-year-old. And more than the Narrow Sea separates “Sesame Street” from “Game of Thrones,” or Skyping with grandma to creating your own YouTube video.
Realizing that kids are different and so, too, is what they can do and learn from TV, smartphones and tablets, the American Academy of Pediatrics on Friday released new recommendations that cast aside its old one-size-fits-all approach to limiting kids’ screen time to a few hours each day.
Instead, the academy recommends that parents put together an age-appropriate media plan for each family member that takes into consideration all that can be done on the range of devices that many families now possess.
Children spent an average of about seven hours per day engaged with electronic media, on televisions, computers, phones and other devices. But not all media time is passive entertainment, the academy’s new recommendations recognize. Electronic media today can be used in creative and healthy ways.
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They have launched a new online tool to aid families in putting together a family media plan.
“We’re not telling parents not to use media in the functional ways we all do,” Jenny Radesky, a physician and the lead author of the academy’s policy statement, “Media and Young Minds,” said in a video conference Friday. “ …Entertainment media isn’t the only thing anymore. You can be using a device to take pictures with your kids, and take silly videos, stop-motion animation. You can write songs together. … These devices, we can do so much more creatively with our kids together. We don’t always have to think of it as passive screen time.”
In its policy statement, the academy cites studies that note some of the effects of electronic media on very young children. The evidence of benefits is still “limited,” the policy said. Parents still need to be present.
“Emerging evidence,” the policy also states, “shows that at 24 months of age, children can learn words from live video-chatting with a responsive adult or from an interactive touchscreen.”
Starting at 15 months, the policy says, toddlers have been shown to learn novel words from special touchscreens in laboratory settings. New evidence shows that infants and toddlers regularly engage in video-chatting.
It is important, however, for parents to be present when young children are using electronic media. Evidence still suggests that harm can come to children from long-term use of electronic media, such as problems with sleeplessness.
As such, the academy’s recommendations include the following:
▪ For children ages 18 months and younger, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting with loved ones.
▪ For children ages 18 months to 24 months, parents should choose high-quality programming and watch it with their children to help them understand what they’re seeing.
▪ For kids ages 2 to 5, limit screen use to one hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should watch with their children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.
▪ For kids ages 6 and older, place consistent limits on the time spent using media and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health.
Among other recommendations: Think about designating certain times, such as dinner or drive-time, as media-free times. Maybe make certain areas, such as bedrooms, media free. The academy also recommends starting to talk to children early about online behavior, acting safely and treating others with respect.