Screen time isn't necessarily bad for kids — it depends what they're doing on that screen. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently agreed, dropping strict time-based limits in favour of more open-ended guidelines.
Photo by Jim Bauer
The AAP's old policy was to limit kids' screen time (including TV, games, and everything in between) to two hours per day; under two years old, the recommendation was zero. These guidelines are not just unrealistic, they're also based on assumptions about TV watching that don't always apply to how people use phones and tablets. Vegging out in front of the tube is probably not good for anyone, but that doesn't mean kids should be prohibited from playing games, Skyping their grandparents, or texting their friends.
New guidelines are still being written, but last week the AAP released the "key messages" that they will include. Some of the more notable ones:
Parenting has not changed. 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. Know their friends and where they are going with them. Content matters. The quality of content is more important than the platform or time spent with media. Prioritise how your child spends his time rather than just setting a timer. It's OK for your teen to be online. Online relationships are integral to adolescent development. Social media can support identity formation. Teach your teen appropriate behaviours that apply in both the real and online worlds. Ask teens to demonstrate what they are doing online to help you understand both content and context.
When it comes to setting limits, instead of counting hours they recommend asking the question: "Does your child's technology use help or hinder participation in other activities?" Another suggestion is to preserve some tech-free zones, like having everyone set their phones down during mealtime and to charge them outside of the bedroom to avoid interfering with sleep.
Beyond "Turn It Off": How to Advise Families on Media Use [American Academy of Pediatrics]