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6 Things Parents Need to Know About the New Screen Time Guidelines

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Good news, parents! The American Academy of Pediatrics has adjusted their guidelines for screen time in young children again and this time they have relaxed the rules concerning when kids should start watching TV or using other screened devices.

In the past, the organization has warned parents to avoid allowing children under the age of 2 to spend any time in front of televisions, computers or smartphones. Now, they have adjusted that guideline to 18 months, suggesting it is probably OK for kids over that age. Before you throw caution to the wind, you should know this isn’t a green light for parents to just “go for it” when it comes to screens and their kids under 2. In fact, the rules around screens are still really strict. Are you trying to navigate screen use in your home? Here’s what you need to know about the AAP’s new guidelines.

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1. Children under the age of 18 months shouldn’t be in front of screens, with one exception.

This is one area of AAP recommendations that have changed. They still encourage parents to avoid screens for their children under the age of 18 months but they do offer one exception to this rule. Limited and supervised video chatting is fair game, so if you have loved ones who don't live near your family, you can rest easy knowing it is more than OK for your youngest kids to connect with them using Skype or FaceTime, as long as they are supervised.

Even though my family doesn’t watch an excessive amount of TV, I am a work-at-home mom with three kids under 5, so screens are basically a lifeline for me on really hard days.

2. Kids of all ages should be spending less time in front of screens.

Before you get too excited about the AAP relaxing their rules on screen time, you should know they have tightened up on their guidelines about the amount of time children of all ages should spend using screens. Previously, two hours was said to be acceptable for kids 2 to 5. Now, the AAP has dialed that back to one hour or less each day.

3. Screen time should be limited to high quality, educational programs.

Didya hear that, Caillou?

4. All young children should be supervised while in front of screens.

If like me you have been using screens as a babysitter while you catch up on housework or take care of a newborn, the AAP says that is a habit parents need to avoid. They encourage parents to be present with their children to facilitate learning by helping them understand what they are seeing on the screen. Additionally, if your child is using or downloading apps, parents should review them first and be nearby to talk about what kids are learning.

5. Certain times of the day should be kept completely screen-free.

Use of screens should be limited to avoid use during mealtimes, one hour before bedtime and during parent-child playtime. For parents having a hard time staying away from their smartphones, they suggest using the “do not disturb” setting on your phone.

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6. Use your pediatrician as a resource for managing your family’s media use.

I don’t know about you, but when I read the new AAP guidelines for media use, I felt a little overwhelmed. Even though my family doesn’t watch an excessive amount of TV, I am a work-at-home mom with three kids under 5, so screens are basically a lifeline for me on really hard days. If setting new screen time boundaries with your young children seems intimidating, the AAP suggested pediatricians act as a resource for parents. They can help you navigate any pushback you might get from your kids when you start changing up your routine.

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