Nov 4, 2013

American Academy of Pediatrics’ new media use policy for kids

Most parents are aware that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) discourages any screen time for children under the age of 2, but what about older kids? Earlier this week, the organization finally weighed in on how much is too much when it comes to media for school-aged kids, including tweens and teens. The verdict? Two hours of screen time per day, excluding school-related use.

### Media Use Associated With Health Problems

While the AAP maintains that media use alone does not cause health problems amongst young people, it argues that too much screen time can contribute to a host of problems, including obesity and problems at school. The organization asked pediatricians to begin engaging parents in conversations about their children’s digital habits and giving them advise based on the individual child and his or her risk factors for things like obesity, aggression, and substance abuse.

### A Call for Change

The AAP’s new policy is calling for a huge change in children’s use of digital devices. One recent study shows that the average 8-10 year old spends almost eight hours a day behind a screen of some sort, whether it be a television, laptop, tablet, or phone, for instance, while older teens engage with media for 11+ hours a day, more time than they spend sleeping. Cutting screen time down to just 2 hours a day will almost certainly present a challenge for kids and parents alike.

### It’s Not All Bad News

The AAP does acknowledge that not all media use is bad. For instance, the organization points out that positive use of social media can teach kids important life lessons such as tolerance, empathy, and how to get along with others. According to Marjorie Hogan, MD, FAAP, co-author of the AAP policy, “Parents, educators and pediatricians should participate in media education, which means teaching children and adolescents how to make good choices in their media consumption.” This is great news for tech-savvy parents who want their children to get the best that the digital world has to offer without worrying over whether they’re putting their kids in harm’s way. Despite the bad press they often get, video games themselves don’t rot kids brains. In fact, several studies point to these games’ propensity for heightening cognitive abilities! Like anything else, screen time is fine (positive even!) when practiced in moderation.

### Takeaway for Parents

In addition to the 2-hour per day recommendation, the Academy encourages parents to be good digital role models by limiting their own media use and devising a “media use plan” for kids that discourages screen time at mealtimes and before bed.

For more information about the new AAP guidelines, visit the Academy’s website.

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