The American Academy of Pediatrics recently updated their guidelines regarding screen time for youth of all ages. The old guidelines were more succinct and there were two basic premises: screen time for children two and under was not recommended and for children two and over, no more than two hours a day. As a children’s librarian, I have often shared this information with parents and caregivers. I have also adhered to these guidelines as a parent.

I always felt there was something very general about these guidelines and a one size fits all mentality. Lots of questions loomed in my mind. What about iPads and apps designed for children ages two and under? What about skyping? What about screen time in educational settings? The new set of guidelines answers these questions and more. The Academy has acknowledged that media and technology are an integral part of our daily lives and that screen time is not simply defined by watching television. The policy itself may take some time to read and for those wanting a quick break down of the recommendations, here they are:

For children ages 0-5:

Avoid digital media use (except video-chatting) in children younger than 18 to 24 months.

For children ages 18 to 24 months of age, if you want to introduce digital media, choose high-quality programming and use media together with your child. Avoid solo media use in this age group.

Do not feel pressured to introduce technology early; interfaces are so intuitive that children will figure them out quickly once they start using them at home or in school.

For children 2 to 5 years of age, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programming, coview with your children, help children understand what they are seeing, and help them apply what they learn to the world around them.

Avoid fast-paced programs (young children do not understand them as well), apps with lots of distracting content, and any violent content.

Turn off televisions and other devices when not in use.

Avoid using media as the only way to calm your child. Although there are intermittent times (eg, medical procedures, airplane flights) when media is useful as a soothing strategy, there is concern that using media as strategy to calm could lead to problems with limit setting or the inability of children to develop their own emotion regulation. Ask your pediatrician for help if needed.

Monitor children’s media content and what apps are used or downloaded. Test apps before the child uses them, play together, and ask the child what he or she thinks about the app.

Keep bedrooms, mealtimes, and parent–child playtimes screen free for children and parents. Parents can set a “do not disturb” option on their phones during these times.

No screens 1 hour before bedtime, and remove devices from bedrooms before bed.

For 5 to 18 year olds:

Develop, follow and routinely revisit a Family Media Plan.

Address what type and how much media are used, and what media behaviors are appropriate for each child or teen — and for parents. Place consistent limits on hours per day of media use as well as types of media used.

Help your child select educational media that encourage creativity and co-view the content or co-play with your child.

For children ages 6 years and older, set media use limits that factor in other health-promoting activities such as physical activity, sleep, family meals, school and friends.

Discourage entertainment media while children are doing homework, and make sure children don’t sleep with devices in their bedrooms.

Implement media-free zones such as the dinner table.

Serve as positive role models on healthy media use.

As you can see, these guidelines have expanded and put more of an onus on parents and caregivers. A Family Media Plan is mentioned and the AAP even offers a guide to help you make a plan that is unique to your family. I went in and created one for my family and not only is it helpful for my child, but it will also help me be mindful of my own habits and media consumption. Parents and caregivers do set the tone for media use in the household so it is important for us to model good habits.

The guidelines recommend that parents should be an integral part of their children’s media use and experience. This ranges from coviewing shows to previewing apps and playing them with your child. It can be overwhelming for parents to know if they are selecting quality apps for their children to use or if the shows their children are watching are beneficial and age appropriate. There are great resources out there to help parents in this endeavor. Here are just a few:

PBS Parents Children and Media: Find digital and print resources to help you learn more about media and your children.

Common Sense Media: Learn about and read reviews about age appropriate apps, shows, movies and more.

ALSC Blog: Read blog posts about a myriad of library topics related to children, specifically the ones about technology and media. There is a yearly app round up and 2016's will be posted at the end of the year.

Youth Services Librarians at your local library location are always happy to discuss this topic with you!

Photo Credits:

  1. student_ipad_school - 234 by Brad Flickinger on Flickr Creative Commons Images
  2. Phone Game, IMG_0943 by Shaun Dunmall on Flickr Creative Commons Images




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