Doctors share important new screen time guidelines for very young children

Baby holding iPad or tablet

Is your family’s media diet a little on the junky side? The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have just released some new recommendations aimed at keeping your screen-time-loving gang as happy and healthy as possible.

Family media plans

First up, the AAP suggest that every family creates their own ‘media plan’ outlining expected media usage for kids, taking into account education, health and entertainment.

“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,” says Media and Young Minds policy statement lead author Dr Jenny Radesky.

The Media and Young Minds policy focuses on the media usage of infants, toddlers and preschool children, and Jenny says parents need to take a hands-on approach from the get-go. It’s then that high quality media can become healthy and educational for our kids.

Media mentoring

“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,” Jenny says.

While it’s so tempting to use screens as a babysitter during busy times, the AAP suggest this is really not the best idea and that kids need a co-pilot when it comes to processing what they see on TV or online.

Highlights of the AAP’s child screen-time recommendations include:

  • Children under 18 months should avoid use of screen media unless it’s 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.
  • Children ages 2 to 5 years should view no more than one hour per day of high-quality programs. Again, parents should watch with their children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.
  • Families should plan media-free times together and create media-free locations at home (bedrooms, for instance.)
  • Families should have ongoing discussions about online citizenship and safety, including treating others with respect online and offline.

Team effort

“Parents play an important role in helping children and teens navigate the media environment, just as they help them learn how to behave offline. The AAP wants to provide parents the evidence-based tools and recommendations to help them make their children’s media experience a positive one,” lead author Dr Yolanda (Linda) Reid Chassiakos says.

One of those tools is the AAP’s helpful Family Media Plan for families. It aims to educate parents and facilitate kids’ more measured and healthy exposure to screens. It seems like a great place to start formalising your family’s personal media policy.

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