Friday, November 18, 2016

New AAP Media Guidelines and Family Media Use Tool

Our colleagues at the American Academy of Pediatrics recently updated their policy guidelines regarding screen time for children, looking separately at young children up to five years of age and at older children and teens.

The backbone of their polices for children of all ages, as it has been in the past, is that parents should make sure that screen time does not displace other activities that are critical to healthy development. In other words, families should balance a light diet of media time with physical activity, hands-on exploration, and face-to-face interactions. The AAP policy notes that digital media can provide older children with new ways to acquire information and ideas and with increased opportunities for social contact and information about health and life style. For older children, who generally use digital media without constant parental supervision, risks include negative health effects on weight and sleep; exposure to inaccurate, inappropriate, or unsafe content and contacts; and compromised privacy and confidentiality. 

The AAP continues to recommend no screen time for children under 18 months of age, except for video-chatting (FaceTime or Skype with relatives). Children from eighteen months up to two years old can begin to watch some high-quality programming, as long as a caregiver is present to enhance their understanding of the media and make the experience interactive. The AAP cautions that just because media is advertised as "educational" does not mean that it offers real benefits to children. Between the ages of two and five, children can watch up to one hour but, again, caregivers should be present and engaged. Screen time is used most effectively when caregivers can relate the information on the screen to the world around them, highlighting the interactive nature of the experience. Once a child hits six years old, parents should be consistent in the limits they place on screen time. Most importantly, as noted above, screen time should not replace the more critical activities of childhood, including sleep and active play. 

The AAP also suggests creating media-free zones at home (e.g., no media in the bedroom) as well as media-free times, such as dinner or car trips. As children get older, caregivers should continue to discuss their online presence, including safety and what it means to be a upright online citizen. The policy for older children urges parents to discourage entertainment media during homework time and to make sure that teens don't sleep with their phones, tablets, or computers in their bedroom. Finally, for children of all ages, parents should model responsible use of media, limiting their own use and remaining "present" during family time.

What’s new this year is the Family Media Use Tool. This online tool allows family members to work together to decide how media is going to play a role in their home. It provides customizable options for media-free zones and times, as well as how screen time is going to be used by each family member. For example, toddlers may be designated as co-viewers only, meaning they only engage in screen time as a joint activity. Older children may be designated as allowed to use social media and watch age-appropriate shows, but not visit new websites without permission. Older teens may be able to have freer use of the internet, but limits on where they can use their screen devices, so that parents can keep an eye on what they are viewing. The tool also allows families to choose some suggestions for what they can do instead of screen time, including joining a team sport or playing board games. The media use plan includes tips for online citizenship as well as reminders for kids to keep their eyes off the screen while engaging in conversation. The plan is printable and can easily be made into a contract or star chart for helping children learn how to be knowledgeable and conscientious consumers of media.

No comments:

Post a Comment