For years, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) told parents to keep babies under 2 years old away from all media screens. That meant no TV. No apps. No FaceTiming with far-away family. Now recognizing that digital media is pretty much inescapable, the AAP just revised its recommendations for how families with young kids can enjoy a healthy dose of screen time.
The changes, announced today, clarify that certain kinds of media can actually be beneficial for baby. High-quality programming, like the content on Sesame Workshop and PBS, can have educational value for children 18 months and older, the AAP says. If you choose to let your toddler watch, the Academy suggests parents should join in to make sure kids understand what they’re seeing.
For infants under 18 months, the new guidelines say video-chatting is a-okay (FaceTime and Skype users, rejoice!). But other than that, the AAP is still advising parents to keep baby away from screens.
"Too much media use can mean that children don't have enough time during the day to play, study, talk or sleep," Jenny Radesky, MD, FAAP, lead author of the new media policy statement on infants and toddlers, says in a press release. "What's most important is that parents be their child's 'media mentor.' That means teaching them how to use it as a tool to create, connect and learn."
Creative, unplugged playtime is still top priority for baby. A media overload can prevent baby from getting enough physical activity and face-to-face interaction with people, all of which are key to baby’s learning and development. Too much screen time can also cause sleep problems, the AAP says (and none of us want to mess with baby’s precious sleep!).
For kids 2 to 5, the AAP recommends limiting screen time to 1 hour of high-quality programs a day. Parents with kids 6 and older should put rules in place about what kind of media their kids can consume and for how long, and make sure it doesn’t interfere with physical activity and sleep. (Hint: Cutting down on your own media use can help send the right message.)
To help parents come up with a responsible—and reasonable—media plan, the AAP is offering a new planning tool on its website for families.