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Screen Time and Interactive Family Media Plan

The digital media today's children are immersed in can have both positive and negative effects on their development.  The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) set new recommendations and provided families with a great new resource to help families balance screen time from birth to adulthood.  

This Interactive Family Media Plan helps families develop healthy habits regarding screen time to meet the needs of each child in terms of health, education and entertainment needs, as well as the family as a whole.  

“Families should proactively think about their children’s media use and talk with children about it, because too much media use can mean that children don’t have enough time during the day to play, study, talk, or sleep,” said Jenny Radesky, MD, FAAP, lead author of the policy statement, “Media and Young Minds,” which focuses on infants, toddlers and pre-school children. “What’s most important is that parents be their child’s ‘media mentor.’ That means teaching them how to use it as a tool to create, connect and learn.”  A second policy statement, “Media Use in School-Aged Children and Adolescents,” offers recommendations for children ages 5 to 18, and a technical report, “Children, Adolescents and Digital Media,” provides a review of the scientific literature to support both policies. All three documents were published in the November 2016 Pediatrics (online October 21). 

As parents, we need to emphasize creative, screen free, playtime for infants and toddlers.  While the AAP recognizes that some media can provide an educational value for children starting around 18 months of age, it is extremely important that this be high-quality programming such as the content offered by Sesame Workshop and PBS.  Another important aspect is that parents of young children watch these programs with their children so they can help to explain to their child what they are seeing.  

So what can we do for our school-age children and adolescents to help them build healthy screen time habits? The key lies in balancing media use with other healthy behaviors.  Screen time becomes problematic when it replaces physical activity, hands-on exploration and face-to-face interactions in the real world.  Too much screen time can also be detrimental to the quantity and quality of sleep our children receive.  

Among the AAP recommendations:

  • For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting. Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming, and watch it with their children to help them understand what they're seeing. 
  • For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.
  • For children 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.  
  • Designate media-free times together, such as dinner or driving, as well as media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms. 
  • Have ongoing communication about online citizenship and safety, including treating others with respect online and offline.

To see the entire article published by the AAP, click on the following link: American Academy of Pediatrics Announces New Recommendations for Children's Media Use