Kids today are growing in a media-saturated environment which includes broadcast and streamed television, interactive videos games and social media. This means being exposed to a lot of content which cannot be always verified by parents.
Having an abundance of screen time for kids is a concern for parents and they have are within reason. A study in America reveals that a person before reaching the age of Eighteen gets to see 200000 impressions of violence through media. There are also legitimate concerns regarding the health and development of kids like obesity, sleep deprivation and the mental development of kids.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Media is not always bad. The University of London academics finds that children who watch a lot of television are not really lagging behind. What's interesting is there is very little to separate the kids who watch a lot of TV from that of kids from stricter households.
Now, these statements about media, which are contradictory in nature can confuse parents. How do they really make a decision for their children? Well, it's clear that kids cannot escape media and media might not be totally bad. Maybe a middle ground needs to be reached. A compromise from the traditional mindset that parents possess and include media in a positive light. This is precisely the conclusion that the American Association of Pediatrics has arrived.
Strike a Balance
In their new policy statement Media and Young Minds, AAP Council on Communications and Media have given guidelines to parents and pediatricians to help them handle the subject of media for kids. They advise the parents to draw up a Family plan which is personalized for their children.
The family plan should focus on prioritizing activities for their kids, which includes media screen time. Using the plan, critical health practices are followed daily, including attaining one hour of exercise and eight to 12 hours of sleep (depending on age). To ensure that sleep is restful, the policy says children should not sleep with media devices in their rooms and should avoid any screen time for at least an hour before bed. The plan also suggests designating screen-free locations at home, such as the bedroom, as well as media-free times such as family dinnertime or while driving. Health, academic and social goals are met first, and only then media use time is considered. This brings up the question of screen time to be allocated, which is ideal for kids.
Ideal Screen time
The AAP recommends that for children younger than 18 months, use of screen media other than video chatting should be discouraged.
Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming/apps and use them together with children because this is how toddlers learn best. Letting children use media by themselves should be avoided.
For children older than 2 years, media limits are very appropriate. Limit screen use to no more than 1 an hour or less per day of high-quality programming. For children, ages 6 years and older, set media use limits that factor in other health-promoting activities such as physical activity, sleep, family meals, school, and friends.
Parents as media mentors
Parents have to be hands-on in this new vision that the AAP for managing media for their kids. The recommend co-viewing and participating with their children in their allocated screen time.Through co-viewing, parents have the opportunity to learn about their children’s interests, discuss family values and share experiences. Experiencing media together provides ongoing opportunities for families to communicate about treating others with respect (both online and offline), avoiding risky behaviors and developing healthy relationships.
With this in mind here are the comprehensive set of recommendations given by AAP for parents:
- Develop, follow and routinely revisit a Family Media Plan.
- Address what type and how much media are used, and what media behaviors are appropriate for each child or teen — and for parents. Place consistent limits on hours per day of media use as well as types of media used.
- Help your child select educational media that encourage creativity and co-view the content or co-play with your child.
- For children, ages 6 years and older, set media use limits that factor in other health-promoting activities such as physical activity, sleep, family meals, school, and friends.
- Discourage entertainment media while children are doing homework, and make sure children don’t sleep with devices in their bedrooms.
- Implement media-free zones such as the dinner table.
- Serve as positive role models for healthy media use.