Anywhere you go nowadays, there is one thing you are almost guaranteed to see – small children glued to their parents’ (or in some cases their own), phones and tablets. You can’t sit on a bus or walk through a grocery store without seeing a young child (I’m talking 2 or 3 years old), staring down at a screen so that their parents can run errands without too much distraction.
Technology is a huge part of our lives and can be very effective at keeping kids occupied. But there needs to be a limit on how much of their worldview comes from a screen instead of actually experiencing the world around them. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is calling parents to action, to decide what is best for their children in regards to how much screen time they are allowed per day.
Generally speaking, screen time is defined as any time that is spent in front of digital media for entertainment purposes, (online research and homework do not count). It used to be that the AAP had some relatively rigid guidelines surrounding screen time for young kids. The old guidelines recommended keeping children under the age of two away from all screen media. In October 2016, these guidelines were revised so that instead of focusing on counting down the minutes, the focus is now on how to use technology responsibly with children, no matter what their age.
While parents are held responsible for policing screen time there are still some recommended guidelines in place. Only an hour for children between the ages of 2 and 5, and for children over the age of 6 the responsibility is left to the parent to decide what is best.
Is it true that kids are too dependent on media these days? Maybe. But can you blame them? There is no area of life that technology does not touch and it would be unrealistic to expect children not to learn how to use it.
These new guidelines encourage parents to take responsibility not only for how much media their children are exposed to, but also what kind of media they are influenced by. Parents should pay attention to The Three C’s, the first of which is content. Parents, know what your children are watching and playing, and if you can, control what they are exposed to.
Second, focus on context. Talk to your children about what they are seeing and doing. Make sure they know how what they see on screen translates into their daily lives.
And finally, focus on your child. No one knows your child better than you do. Screen time should be monitored according to every child’s unique characteristics.
Parents are just as guilty of abusing media use as children are. If a parent’s attention is focused on their phone or on the TV, their child is being deprived of that attention and will look for it elsewhere. The brain is still programmed to learn best through everyday interaction with other human beings. The AAP suggests coming up with a plan that works best for the whole family, a plan that forces everyone involved to put down their phones and just spend time together in fun and engaging activities.
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