Until recently, the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) recommended
no screen time at all for children under 2, and two hours or less per day for
children over 2.
Though our family has been on the liberal side of allowing
screen time, in the back of my mind I always calculated how much TV my kids
watched on a given day, adding it to any time they'd managed to wrangle my
phone away from me. It got worse after my son entered elementary school and used an
iPad at school for math and reading. I worried that his education was seriously
cutting into our family movie time at home.
Last week brought good news for parents like me, who enjoy the break screen time gives but worry we're creating obese, screen-addicted kids with no attention spans. After an intensive research-based symposium held last May, the AAP has softened its "tsk tsk" stance on screen time.
The article acknowledges that the most recent AAP recommendations
on screen time were published before iPads became ubiquitous, citing that more
than 30 percent of children first use mobile devices while still in diapers.
"Good. Now I can stop lying to my pediatrician," read one
comment in response to the updates.
Rather than offering specific guidelines around screen time,
for now, the AAP is just giving general guidelines, with revised
recommendations to come in the future.
Here are some of the key points:
The "Common Sense": Parents should create boundaries around
screen usage; in particular, family mealtimes and bedtime should remain screen-free.
Creative play and outdoor time should still be prioritized. The quality of content
kids watch matters—watching high-quality educational shows is more beneficial
than watching syrupy-voiced adults open surprise eggs on youTube.
The "Duh": Young children learn best from real-life communication
rather than from passive screen time; thus, we still need to interact with our
children. Also, playing violent video games is linked with aggression.
The "My Husband's Going to Love This One": You should play
video games with your kids. I'm not even making this up; the AAP's press
release actually says, "Family participation with media facilitates social
interactions and learning. Play a video game with your kids." Doctor's orders.
The "D'oh!": Parents should be a role model by keeping an eye on our
own media use.
The "Interesting": The reasoning behind eliminating screens
from kids' bedrooms isn't moral, but scientific; the light emitted from screens
disrupts melatonin production, leading to sleep interruptions and deficits.
In a seeming attempt to remind us that screens can't replace
parents, the AAP reminds us that, "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."
Though I'd strayed from the AAP's recommendations in the
past, I always felt bad about it. Because doctors. I'm grateful for what seems
to be a shift from hard numbers to parent-led common sense in an increasingly