Since we live in a world surrounded by media, almost every parent gives a child devices like tablets or smartphones for playing or learning but screen time should be limited as much as possible, recent research suggests.
The American Academy of Pediatrics together with two Seattle scientists have conducted an extensive survey to observe the effects of media in children. Although media use is practically inevitable, parents can still make sure their kids won’t be exposed to it too much.
By closely monitoring their children, parents can prevent the harmful content that might affect the kids’ development and health. This content can also affect social skills making these children less sociable and more isolated in the digital world, where they start feeling comfortable and somehow safe.
For those younger than two-years-old, media exposure should be very limited, especially for kids under 18 months who shouldn’t be allowed to watch any media content. After 18 months, they can experience just high-quality media with one of their parents.
According to Christakis, lead author of the section for media use on newborns to age five, for kids between two to five, screen time should be limited to just one hour per day, although previous recommendations suggested that two hours was fine.
In addition to this, media must contain high-quality content, while the children should not experience it alone but with parents. Children who are older than three can learn new concepts from high-quality media, but for any younger kids, the brain is not capable of transferring what it perceives on the screen to the real world.
Christakis stresses that parents must not use smartphones to calm or distract small kids, because “Children need to learn to self-regulate their emotions.” According to Dr. Megan Moreno, lead author of the study on older kids, for those between six and 18, parents have to be much more involved in this media monitoring.
Instead of imposing strict screen time limitations on video games, computers, tablets, and phones, parents or any other caregivers can develop an extensive family plan which includes media content as part of an improved lifestyle.
To address many issues concerning screen time and other media use, the AAP has developed an online tool called Family Media Content Plan, which is an interactive guide for parents who want to make sure that media use will not affect their children’s social skills, physical exercise, and sleep.