The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued updated recommendations for media use by children that attempt to reconcile their increasing exposure to media with their developmental needs.
Overall, the new policy statement urges parents to make creative, unplugged activity time a priority for infants and toddlers. Whereas children aged younger than 18 months should be involved only in unplugged activities, toddlers aged older than 18 months can be exposed to high-quality educational media. Toddlers and young children should be supervised during media exposure with parents on hand to help them understand what’s on the screen. For older children, the key recommendation is for a balance between media and other activities.
The guidelines for infants to preschool-aged children include discouraging use of all screen media, except for video-chatting with family members, for children aged younger than 18 months; choosing and using high-quality apps with toddlers aged 18 to 24 months; and limiting media use to 1 hour or less for children aged older than 2 years. The AAP also recommends that screen use during meals and in the hour prior to bedtime be restricted. Fast-paced programs, apps with distracting elements, and any type of violent content should be avoided as well.
The recommendations for school-aged children and adolescents include ensuring that older children get at least an hour of physical activity each day as well as the recommended amount of sleep for their age. Pediatricians should encourage families to create media-free times and media-free locations in the home, and recommend that media devices not be allowed in bedrooms while the child sleeps. Children also should be discouraged from using entertainment media while they are completing their homework.
Parents need to continually discuss online safety with their child. In addition, parents should identify and encourage a trusted group of adults who can interact with the child on social media. Babysitters and other caregivers should be informed of all rules regarding media use to ensure consistent application.
In addition to these recommendations, the AAP has developed a tool to help families develop a media use plan that aligns with its current recommendations.