For years, the American Academy of Pediatrics has discouraged any screen time for children under the age of 2. On Friday, however, the group relaxed its stance in a new policy statement.
The new digital media use guidelines say that parents really only need to avoid screens in children younger than 18 months. And video chatting is fine for babies or toddlers of any age.
“This policy statement is really a big-picture perspective shift in terms of how we’re asking parents to be mentors or guides for their young kids as they encounter all this new media,” Dr. Jenny Radesky, a specialist in developmental-behavioral pediatrics with the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and an author on the new statement, told The Huffington Post. “Parents want to know, ‘How do I do this? Give me the tools I need so I can bring up my kids to be good, facile users of media and not develop problematic habits.’”
To that end, parents with toddlers between 18 months and 2 years old who choose to introduce digital media should make a family use plan so they can be deliberate about their child’s screen use, and stick with high-quality programming.
They should also be with their children as they watch. Toddlers rely on their parents to help them grasp the concepts and words they see and hear, said Radesky.
“For families who've struggled to keep all screens out of the hands of curious toddlers, the change will no doubt come as a relief.”
But while the recommendations loosened a bit for children on the younger end of the spectrum, they are are a bit more stringent for kids age 2 to 5.
The AAP used to say screen use for entertainment ― a category that includes using apps or watching TV ― should be limited to two hours per day. Now it says that it should be capped at no more than one hour.
Use beyond that has been linked to issues like obesity and sleep problems, the statement says. However, watching a moderate amount of high-quality programming, like “Sesame Street,” has been shown to improve cognitive and social outcomes and literacy in children aged 3 to 5.
Of course, Radesky said that if parents want to be more stringent with media use, that is absolutely fine. “If you do want to stay a ‘low-tech’ family, don’t feel pressured to introduce screens,” she said. “Your kids will catch up. These are very intuitive devices.”
“The emphasis is no longer just on how much time kids spend using digital media, but how they use it.”
But for families who’ve struggled to keep all screens out of the hands of curious toddlers, the change will no doubt come as a relief. The emphasis is no longer just on how much time kids spend using digital media, but how they use it.
“We don’t want to define [media use] as ‘This is how we get the house quiet’ or ‘This is how we calm ourselves down,’” Radesky said. “Of course, there are going to be times when that happens. It just shouldn’t be the only way kids use media.”