Pediatricians’ New Recommendations for Children’s Media Use

With digital media an ever-increasing part of daily life, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently announced new recommendations and resources to help families make informed decisions about screen time for their young children.

The new guidelines, which were announced in October, are a slight shift from the AAP’s previous stance of no screen media before age 2. While still recommending that parents of children younger than 18 months should avoid use of screen media – other than video chatting with a responsive adult – the AAP now says that parents of toddlers and preschoolers who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming, watch it with their children to help them understand what they’re seeing, and limit the amount of screen time to no more than one hour per day.

“We know that media use is a challenging issue for today’s parents. We also know that parents want to help their children learn and grow. These new guidelines emphasize that young children develop best through positive, nurturing relationships with their parents and other caregivers,” said Dr. Farah Lokey, Medical Director of Poverty and Child Health for the Arizona Chapter of the AAP. “Too much screen time can mean less time for play, conversation and face-to-face interactions that are vital to a young child’s healthy development.” 

Accompanying the new recommendations is “Media and Young Minds”, a policy statement focused specifically on infants, toddlers and preschoolers and the implications of screen time on their learning, health and child development.

Among the AAP recommendations for young children:

· Younger than 18 months: Parents should avoid the use of screen media, with the exception of video chatting with family and friends through services such as Skype and Facetime.

· 18-24 months: If parents choose to expose their toddler to media, it should be high-quality educational programming, such as offerings from PBS and Sesame Workshop, and caregivers should watch with the child, engaging in conversation about what they are seeing.

· 2-5 years: Similarly, parents should choose high-quality media, watch it together with their children and engage them in dialogue to help them apply what they are seeing to the real world. Screen time should be limited to 1 hour a day.

In addition, the AAP has developed tools for creating a family media plan to help parents think about media and create goals and rules to fit their family’s values and parenting style.