The American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) recently revised its guidelines on screen time for kids. The new recommendations offer helpful advice for parents trying to keep up with a world that has gone from Saturday morning cartoons to nonstop digital media exposure.
For years, the AAP advised a 2 hour limit on screen time for children over 2, and no screen time for younger children. Today, they’re recommending no digital media for infants up to 18 months, and one hour for children 2 to 5.
Parents of older kids are encouraged to consider what works in their individual circumstances. Learn more about how to monitor your child’s use of digital media, and address issues of content and context. You’ll find answers to many of your questions in the new AAP statement.
Screen Time Guidelines for Any Age
- Manage entertainment. The limits apply to digital entertainment. Other activities like online homework and video calls with grandparents don’t count as screen time here.
- Fill up on healthy activities. Streaming TV shows and playing video games are for the hours left over after more important priorities. These include physical exercise, academics, socializing, and sleep.
- Create quiet zones. Set aside times and spaces free from electronic devices. Keep the phones off at the dinner table and in the bedroom.
- Be a positive role model. Your kids will copy what you do. Spend more time offline and be courteous when you’re online.
Infants up to 18 Months
- Understand brain development. Some studies show that screen time can interfere with babies’ language development, memory formation, and sleep. The light and sounds are overstimulating even if they seem to like them.
- Bond together. What babies need is eye contact and interaction. When you’re on the phone, you’re talking and looking at your baby less.
- Communicate two ways. Children learn through interaction. Talk with your child or play a game together.
Children 2 to 5
- Curate content. There are lots of apps and programs for kids, but little evidence behind some of those claims. The AAP recommends providers parents can trust, like Sesame Workshop and PBS Kids.
- Avoid cartoons. You might be surprised to learn that small children have trouble understanding animation. Wait until they’re old enough to tell the difference between a cartoon character and a real one.
- Explain ads. Similarly, your toddler is likely to confuse paid ads with the rest of the content. Limit their exposure and talk about the ads they do see. Make a game out of picking healthy snacks instead of junk food.
- Accelerate learning. Education products are ideal for children starting at about age 2. Find something you child enjoys to make learning fun.
Children 6 and Older
- Teach safety. As kids grow older, you’ll need to help them understand the consequences of cyberbullying, sexting, and posting personal information. Establish ground rules, spend time together online, and check out the tools your kids use.
- Be creative. Encourage your children to develop and share their talents online. Maybe they’re interested in taking photos, showcasing their crafts, or recording music.
- Avoid overuse injuries. Online activities can sometimes affect your child’s physical and mental health. Too much TV has been associated with depression, and gamer’s thumb and text neck have become common conditions.
Set sensible limits and talk with your doctor for more ideas. Help your kids enjoy age-appropriate screen time at each stage in their development. Input from pediatricians and other experts can guide you towards finding the right balance for you and your family.