The American Academy of Pediatrics is stepping into the 21st century by updating their outdated guidelines regarding how children are interacting in the digital age. Previously, they advised that children under the age of two should have zero exposure to screens (television, smartphones, laptops, etc.). However, according to statistics provided by Common Sense Media, more than 30 percent of kids have played with a mobile device while still in diapers.
Another change concerns the amount of time older children spend with electronic devices which was limited to no more than two hours a day. Since more than 75 percent of tweens and teens have smartphones, that recommendation was no longer realistic. “In a world where ‘screen time’ is becoming simply ‘time,’ our policies must evolve or become obsolete,” says Drs. Ari Brown, Donald L. Shifrin, and David L. Hill in a recent AAP News publication. “The public needs to know that the Academy’s advice is science-driven, not based merely on the precautionary principle.”
While the revised guidelines will not be released until 2016, the AAP does offer 12 important key messages from the Growing Up Digital: Media Research Symposium held in May. Here are five (the complete list of guidelines can be found here):
Media is just another environment. Children do the same things they have always done, only virtually. Like any environment, media can have positive and negative effects.
Parenting has not changed. The same parenting rules apply to your children’s real and virtual environments. Play with them. Set limits; kids need and expect them. Teach kindness. Be involved. Know their friends and where they are going with them.
Content matters. The quality of content is more important than the platform or time spent with media. Prioritize how your child spends his time rather than just setting a timer.
Playtime is important. Unstructured playtime stimulates creativity. Prioritize daily unplugged playtime, especially for the very young.
Create tech-free zones. Preserve family mealtime. Recharge devices overnight outside your child’s bedroom. These actions encourage family time, healthier eating habits and healthier sleep.
How you decide to incorporate and allow your child to use available mobile devices will depend on a number of factors, including what type of learning style your child has. Certain types of technology have been very successful for children with learning disabilities. Talk to a qualified psychologist who can help determine what strategies will work best for your child and your family, as well identify any underlying issues that may be of concern.