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The Screen Time Limits Recommended by Pediatricians

You’ve laid down the ground rules with your kids, but how do you know just how much screen time is too much, and more importantly, how do you go about enforcing these limits?

According to CNN, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has revised their media guidelines and recommends the following screen time limits and best practices:

  • Kids should be limited to two hours per day of combined laptop and smartphone use. This two hour limit excludes online homework and any schoolwork. Parents should ensure that during this two hour timeframe, kids engage with only high-quality content.
  • Children under two should not have any screen media exposure (the rationale being that young children learn best by interacting with people as opposed to screens).
  • Families should set a media curfew, or a time in the evening when parents tell their kids to turn their phones, tablets, TVs, and computers off.

AAP found that kids spend an average of seven hours per day on entertainment media, which includes TVs, computers, phones, and other electronic devices.

Even more shocking are the findings of a Common Sense Media report: 38% of children under two have used a mobile device or tablet for media; and the average time per day that children under two spend with screen media is an hour.

Too much screen time is becoming a public health issue

While these guidelines may seem unrealistic or excessively strict, keep in mind that children’s behavioral, emotional, and physical health is at stake with rising media usage.

According to CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen, when kids engage in too much screen time, they can become overweight, develop attention disorders, and have problems at school.

Studies have also linked excessive screen time to eye strain, aggressive behavior, sleep disorders, and even mental health diagnoses in kids.

Enforcing screen time limits and other tips

  • Monitor the media that your kids use.
  • Encourage outdoor and physical activity when your kids are outside of school.
  • Engage in screen time and media activities, such as playing a video game or watching a TV show, with your child. This way you know how much screen time they’re actually getting, and by engaging in these kinds of activities together, you encourage bonding and social interaction. You can also use this together time to promote learning by teaching your kids about advertising through commercials on TV, or the importance of not oversharing via online content.
  • Value face-to-face communication. While an educational learn-the-alphabet app or game may seem like a good way to improve language skills, AAP reports that young children learn best through two-way communication. This means that actual back-and-forth conversations are necessary to improve language skills, rather than passive listening or one-way interaction on an electronic device.
  • Know that not all media content is equal. AAP encourages the use of high-quality content, such as e-books and FaceTime or Skype video chats with relatives or a traveling parent. (As noted above, two-way conversations, no matter if they’re in person or online, boost children’s language skills and capacity for social interaction.)

With our increasingly digital world, it’s more important than ever to raise media literate children. If you’d like to learn more, please visit the AAP website. AAP has a wealth of information about children and media safety, including how to talk to your kids about social media, screen time, and sexting.

If you have a suggestion or advice regarding establishing screen time limits, please feel free to leave a comment below.

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