Navigating the Screen Time World
Screen time is an inescapable reality today, but there is strong research that too much screen time can have serious health consequences. In November of 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a policy statement with research backed positions regarding screen time and young children. Read on for a summary of that statement.
Who Should Have Screen Time?
Under Age 2: Children in this age group learn best from face to face interactions and adult conversations and play. Screen time in the form of face timing or skype is considered acceptable for children under two, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Any sort of entertainment, even learning based use, before the age of 2 can be harmful to learning and attention development.
Preschoolers Aged 3-5: Children in this age group can learn from interactions with media, but their brain best absorbs the information when it is shared with an adult. Learning based apps and shows are most helpful when an adult or older peer is interacting with the media along side them. Choose apps and shows that have variety in content and that encourage two player interactions. Sesame Workshops and PBS Kids apps and shows have research backing their ability to help kids learn early reading and math skills. Keep your time to about one hour per day, tallied up between all screens.
Skills that help learning and school readiness the most include: the ability to control emotions and impulses, flexible thinking, and sticking with a difficult task. These are learned best through interactions with parents, other caring adults, or playing outside with friends. These skills are not well learned through digital media.
Older Children and Teenagers: Children in this age group benefit the most from learning the skills of balance. Spend time modeling healthy screen use. Talk with them about how a balanced life includes some screen time but also play, school, and sleep. Sit and watch with kids or engage in the same social media sites your teens are on to stay up to date. Keep internet accessing devices in public rooms of the house.
Where Is Screen Use Appropriate?
Create “screen free zones” and “screen free times of day.” Use screens in small doses in group areas of the home, such as the dining room or living room. Save bedrooms for sleeping. Use driving in the car, shopping trips, and waiting in waiting rooms as opportunities to talk with your child. Discussing the world around them supports language skill development in young children and gives older kids a chance to connect through story telling or sharing their latest interest with you.
When Should Screens Be Used?
Avoid screens first thing in the morning or within a 1 to 2-hour window of bedtime. Our sleep hormones and sleep rhythms are regulated by exposure to natural light. Looking at blue light, the light emitted from screens, tricks our brain into being more awake and can upset healthy sleep-wake times.
How Do I Navigate the Ever Changing Apps and Media Options For Kids Of All Ages?
Access online support systems like commonsensemedia.org. “Common Sense Media helps families make smart media choices. We offer the largest, most trusted library of independent age-based and educational ratings and reviews for movies, games, apps, TV shows, websites, books, and music. Our Parent Concerns and Parent Blog help families understand and navigate the problems and possibilities of raising children in the digital age.”
Build a Family Media Plan with healthychildren.org or use their Media Time Calculator https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/Media/Pages/default.aspx.