By definition, the digital world is constantly changing and it’s almost impossible for parents or even us healthcare professionals to keep pace with it. The Pew research Center has reported that 30% of children ❤ yrs old play on mobile devices, 75% of teens have smart phones and 24% admit to “almost constant” use. So, of course, it has immense impact on children’s lives, and we all must try our best.
The original guidelines developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics regarding video entertainment were actually published in 2011 before the first IPod was marketed and the innumerable child aps were developed. I have often stated that I believe those guidelines are overly blunt and simplistic: no use < 2 years old and < 2 hours/day for children beyond age 2. Where does Skype/Facetime with a parent traveling on business or hours spent researching a school project fit into those rigid boundaries?
In May 2015, the AAP held a meeting called “Growing Up Digital:Media Research Symposium” to discuss updating these recommendations. As reported by Dr. Ari Brown in the September issue of AAP News, some of the findings were:
- Media is just another environment with potential positive or negative effects.
- Content is important: choose programming from reputable educational sources like PBS or Children’s Television Workshop
- Role modeling is important: what is the nature of use of video media by you, the parent? Can you, yourself put your tablet down? If not, how can you expect to persuade your child to put their’s aside?
- Interaction is best: games/aps that require the child to engage is far superior to those where simple observation is all that is available. Playing the games and using the aps with your child is far superior to using those media as (I call it) “the electronic babysitter.”
- Limits are essential: no activity is healthy if it is 24/7. At some point it’s time to do something else. Need to establish gentle but firm time limits on video media activities.
- Unstructured time: endeavor to not have every hour of your child’s free time scheduled. The idle mind is by no means always the devil’s playground. Often it is a source of relaxation and energy regeneration. Sometimes it can be the inspiration for great new ideas.
So the bottom line is as always: its on us parents. There is no specific time for video entertainment that is good or bad, too much or too little. The child’s best toy: his parents. The child’s best teacher: her parents. Best strategy: play with your kids, be involved with your kids, take an interest in their lives and in their interests. In the real or digital world: BE INVOLVED!! Don’t farm out your supervision of and your involvement in your children’s lives.
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