The past decade has been filled with incredible advances in technology. With the benefits of these advances come challenges. A very important one is figuring out how to raise technically savvy children without harming them by allowing them to lose themselves into a world that isn’t reality. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has come out with recommendations for parents. These recommendations are summarized here:
- Children under 3 generally do not gain any benefits from use of media (television, smart phones, computers, etc. …) The AAP states that children this age need “hands on exploration and social interactions with trusted caregivers.”
- Children ages 3-5 should be limited to one hour a day of media use. During these years children are developing higher order thinking, emotional control and creative thinking which are best taught in play that is not structured nor digital. They need responsive parent interactions to develop critical social skills.
- Various recommendations exist for school aged children. They are more specific and include not allowing children to have electronics (TV’s, smart phones, ipads, computers, etc..) in their bedrooms at night. It is important for families to schedule media free time each day to interact. During homework all media should be off unless it is necessary for the homework. Families are encouraged to have a “family media use plan” which allows parents to discuss rules and expectations regarding media use. In general screen time is best limited to less than 2 hours per day on average.
Some of the risks associated with large amounts of media use include obesity, mental health problems, sleep problems and decreased ability to form social relationships. Children who spend more than five hours a day watching TV have a five times risk of obesity compared to children who are limited to less than two hours. Parents are encouraged to monitor their children’s internet exposure for the possibility of cyberbullying, sexting and solicitation. It is important to have frequent conversations with our children about what they are watching or doing on their electronics and allow them to discuss anything that may be questionable.
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