Our Privacy/Cookie Policy contains detailed information about the types of cookies & related technology on our site, and some ways to opt out. By using the site, you agree to the uses of cookies and other technology as outlined in our Policy, and to our Terms of Use.


Good News: We Can Stop Lying to Our Pediatricians

Photograph by Twenty20

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.

RELATED: Before You Ask About Her Uterus, Ask Yourself These Questions

"In a world where 'screen time' is becoming simply 'time,' our policies must evolve or become obsolete," reads a section from "Beyond 'turn it off': How to advice families on media use."

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.

RELATED: Why I Gave My Kid More Screen Time

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 digital world.

More from baby