New Guidelines for Kids’ Digital Media Use

Posted 12/28/2016 | By HealthCorps

New American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidelines recommend that parents need to pay close attention to how much time young children spend on digital media and “how, when and where” they use it.

Do you let your kids play on your iPad once in a while? Use your phone to play a game while you shop?  Those short limited experiences are not a problem.  But if the TV or digital media has become your child’s babysitter or is needed to help lull your child to sleep – you’ve got a problem.

The new AAP recommendations suggest that children between the ages of two and five should use digital media for a maximum of one hour daily.  That media experience should be high quality (Sesame Street is a good example) and parents should be sitting with their kids, discussing the information being viewed.  Video chatting is not considered part of that hour recommendation, since it involves human interaction and healthy engagement.

The researchers and physicians concluded that for kids over age three, programming like Sesame Street can teach them, new and useful information.  But for kids under age three, immature brains can’t really transfer newly learned information from a screen into usable real-life knowledge.  The experts are just not sure if viewing time enhances or hinders very young children’s knowledge.  The researchers did conclude that excessive media time can get in the way of children’s brain development, especially if it replaces play time and sleep time and if it somehow interferes with a child’s learning to handle emotions and relationships.  So if every time your child gets upset you turn on the TV or hand them an iPad as a calming influence, they never learn to self soothe and cope.

Video-chatting with relatives who live far away, watching science videos or educational programming with parents or a babysitter, watching a cooking show with mom and then making the recipe at home are all “good” ways to use media.  For children between the ages of 18-36 months, parents should be present during media viewing time to help explain the images on the screen.  It’s also important to note that many apps and programs they fall under the educational label are not necessarily educational.

Most important to the new AAP recommendations is the fact that pediatricians need to take the opportunity to tell parents to be “media mentors” and role models, sitting with kids when appropriate and also limiting their own viewing time to set an example.  Pediatricians can also teach parents about brain development and how important it is to choose appropriate high quality digital content in the right quantities and with specific timing (not near bedtime).  It’s important for parents to set limits and to recognize that allowing too much use of digital devices can result in more parent-child conflict.

The AAP Guidelines include the following recommendations:

  • Digital media (except video-chatting) is not appropriate for children under age two.
  • If you do expose kids under age two to digital media choose quality programming and view it with your kids.
  • Do not feel pressured to expose young kids to digital media.
  • For kids ages two to five, one hour of viewing daily should be the max and quality programming with an educational element should be the focus. Help your kids understand what they are viewing.
  • Do not let young children watch any digital media close to bedtime.
  • Avoid face-paced programming and violent content.
  • Television viewing or playing with digital media is not appropriate during meal time.
  • Avoid using media and digital devices to calm your children.
  • Remember that sitting for tool long contributes to childhood obesity
  • Keep all tech devices and TVs out of kids’ bedrooms.
  • Always test apps before you let your kids use them.


Here’s wishing all of you a happy and healthy New Year!!

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