“How much recreational screen time does your child or teenager consume daily?”
“Is there a television set or Internet-connected device in the child’s bedroom?”
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is encouraging all pediatricians to ask these two questions at every well-child visit. These questions are one of many suggestions in the updated AAP policy on Children, Adolescents, and the Media. The policy makes recommendations for how to guide kid’s media use for pediatricians, parents, schools, PTAs and other organizations. For parents, pediatricians are encouraging them to set limits on unsupervised screen time.
The Kaiser Family Foundation found on average 8-18 year-olds spend 7 hours and 38 minutes each day on entertainment media including televisions, computers, phones and other electronic devices. In fact, children and adolescents spend more time with media than they do any other activity except for sleeping. When kids are spending 7 1/2 hrs in front of screen, they are sacrificing other activities. It is this loss of time for exercise, hobbies, or the creativity that come with boredom that is affecting kids health.
A large of amount of this screen time is unsupervised. A recent Microsoft survey found on average most parents stop monitoring internet use by the time their child is 8 years old. Kids left alone in cyberspace are more likely to stumble upon content and advertising aimed at adults. The AAP’s report on Health Effects of Media on Children and Adolescents found some evidence that the continuous exposure to graphic violence and adult topics may lead some children to see risky and cruel behaviors as normal.
This unsupervised viewing increases by 1-2 hrs/day if a child has a TV or device in the bedroom. According to Commonsense Media, 36% of children (age 0-8) have a TV in their bedroom. This percentage is most likely higher for a teenager. The same AAP study found having a TV in the bedroom increases the risk of being overweight by 31% and the likelihood of smoking doubled.
Not all media and online activities are bad. The concern is with excessive, unsupervised screen time. When used thoughtfully, online activities can have positive effects both socially and academically. To help kids make wise media choices, the AAP is asking parents to take an active role in their kids online life. Below it the list of updated recommendations from the AAP for parents to help manage screen times as well as some links to Family Internet Agreements.
- Limit the amount of total entertainment screen time to less than 2 hours/per day
- Discourage screen media exposure for children <2
- Keep the TV set and internet connected electronic devices out of the child’s bedroom
- Monitor what media their children are using and accessing including any websites they are visiting and social media sites they are using.
- Coview TV, movies and videos with children and teenagers, and use this as a way of discussing important family values.
- Model active parenting by establishing a family home use plan for all media. As part of the plan, enforce a mealtime and bedtime “curfew” for media devices, including cell phones. Establish reasonable but firm rules about cell phones, texting, internet and social media use.
Need help setting up a plan? Check out these other articles.
- How to Create a Family Phone Contract by KidsPrivacy
- Make an Internet Use Agreement with Your Child by GetNetWise
- Media Time Family Pledge by HealthyChildren.org
- Family Media Agreement: K-5 by CommonSenseMedia