In May 2015, TEC Center Director, Dr. Chip Donohue, attended the invitation-only Growing Up Digital: Media Research Symposium hosted by The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). We are delighted to see that the AAP has decided to revisit their screen time guidelines for parents to reflect current knowledge on how children and families engage with media and technology. The previous guidelines were drafted in 2011 before the first generation iPad and apps were developed for children.
Today, more than 30% of U.S. children first play with a mobile device when they still are in diapers, according to Common Sense Media. Furthermore, almost 75% of 13- to 17-year-olds have smartphones, and 24% admit using their phones almost constantly, according to the Pew Research Center.
In a world where “screen time” is becoming simply “time,” our policies must evolve or become obsolete. The public needs to know that the Academy’s advice is science-driven, not based merely on the precautionary principle.
The current guidelines share the TEC Center’s best practice guidelines for adults using technology with young children including:
Role modeling is critical. Limit your own media use, and model online etiquette. Attentive parenting requires face time away from screens.
We learn from each other. Neuroscience research shows that very young children learn best via two-way communication. “Talk time” between caregiver and child remains critical for language development. Passive video presentations do not lead to language learning in infants and young toddlers. The more media engender live interactions, the more educational value they may hold (e.g., a toddler chatting by video with a parent who is traveling). Optimal educational media opportunities begin after age 2, when media may play a role in bridging the learning achievement gap.
Content matters. The quality of content is more important than the platform or time spent with media. Prioritize how your child spends his time rather than just setting a timer.
Curation helps. More than 80,000 apps are labeled as educational, but little research validates their quality (Google Scholar). An interactive product requires more than “pushing and swiping” to teach. Look to organizations like Common Sense Media (www.commonsensemedia.org) that review age-appropriate apps, games and programs.
Co-engagement counts. Family participation with media facilitates social interactions and learning. Play a video game with your kids. Your perspective influences how your children understand their media experience. For infants and toddlers, co-viewing is essential.
Playtime is important. Unstructured playtime stimulates creativity. Prioritize daily unplugged playtime, especially for the very young.
Set limits. Tech use, like all other activities, should have reasonable limits. Does your child’s technology use help or hinder participation in other activities?
Join the conversation and share your tips for families looking for help with tech guidelines in comments or on Twitter!