New screen time guidelines rolled out for families, children

Children are being exposed to technology at ever younger ages, perhaps increasing their tech savvy in later years. (Shown: Fisher-Price Newborn-to-Toddler Apptivity Seat for iPad, Credit: Fisher-Price)

Children are being exposed to technology at ever younger ages, perhaps increasing their tech savvy in later years. (Shown: Fisher-Price Newborn-to-Toddler Apptivity Seat for iPad, Credit: Fisher-Price)

Screen time overload is a very real phenomenon in the life of families today. From parents obsessively checking smartphones to kids tapping on tablets; interaction with technology is increasingly hard to avoid.

To help families navigate the digital terrain, the American Academy of Pediatrics has long published some guidelines for media use.

For years the message was pretty simple: No more than two hours in front of the TV for any child over the age of two.

Now the group has reversed course a bit, acknowledging, according to The Washington Post, that some online media “exposure can be beneficial.”

Here are some of the new suggestions for children, as summarized by CBS News:

0-5 years old

  • For children younger than 24 months, avoid any digital media use with the exception of video-chatting
  • For children 18 to 24 months of age, you can introduce digital media, but use it together with your child and avoid allowing the child to consume it alone
  • For children 2 to 5 years old, limit screen time to one hour per day of high-quality programming; watch with your children and help them understand what they are seeing how to apply it
  • No screen time one hour before bedtime
  • Avoid using screen time as the only method to soothe the child (the concern is that the child might not develop the ability to regulate emotion on their own)
  • Avoid fast-paced programs or apps with distracting or violent content
  • Monitor children’s media content; test apps before using them and ask the child what he or she thinks about the app
  • Bedrooms, meal times and playtimes with parents should be screen-free for both parents and child

5-18 years old

  • Develop and be consistent in following family guidelines for media use; assess the types of media and how much is being consumed, and what is appropriate for the child
  • Place consistent limits on hours or type of media that can be used per day
  • Promote one hour of daily physical activity and eight to 12 hours of sleep, depending on age
  • Try to not let children sleep with TVs, computers and smartphones in their bedrooms
  • Avoid media use in the hour leading up to bedtime
  • Have media-free times, like during family dinner, or create media-free areas at home
  • Relay these guidelines to babysitters or other caregivers
  • Have ongoing conversations with the child about online safety, whether it’s about cyberbullying, sexting, solicitations or compromising privacy
  • Have a network of trusted adults who will engage with the child through social media

Regardless of use, parents should remain engaged with their children and set appropriate boundaries as part of a larger family media plan. If you need a little help, the American Academy of Pediatrics actually offers an interactive tool to help you create one.