Our greatest power struggles came when our kids had an iPad or one of our iPhones. Nothing else came close.
If you’re a parent, you know what causes “crazy” in your kids. Usually—at least for us—they’re either “hangry” (when hunger turns angry) or tired.
So what did we do? We took the tablet away. That’s also when I started to research what screens were doing to our children’s brains. At the time, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended zero screen time for children under two. For kids and teens between 8-18, the recommendation was only two hours a day apart from homework.
Then, in September 2015, they relaxed the guidelines to a “suggested” two hours for kids under five, saying “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.”
Thank God—for the sake our children—the “science” didn’t take long to catch up with them.
Last Friday, the AAP reversed course, recommending once again zero screen time for kids under the age of 18 months. For kids ages 2-5, the guideline is only one hour a day.
Why, you may wonder?
I have written on many of these reasons in the past.
- Increased Inattention: Why Mister Rogers is Smarter than Baby Einstein
- Decreased Creativity: Why Smart Parents Have Bored Children
- Increased Self-Centeredness / Decreased Empathy: Is Technology Harmful to our Kids? What Parents Need to Know
- Increased Anxiety and Depression: The Powerful Influence of Secondhand Screen Time on a Child’s Brain: What Parents Need to Know
- Decreased Impulse Control: 4 Ways to Use Screen Time to Your Kids’ Advantage
To spare you from the details, here are a few more highlights from last week’s AAP report:
- “For children younger than two years… adult interaction with the child during media use is crucial, and there continues to be evidence of harm from excessive digital media use.”
- “Unfortunately, most apps parents find under the “educational” category in app stores have no such evidence of efficacy, target only rote academic skills, are not based on established curricula, and use little or no input from developmental specialists or educators.”
- “It is important to emphasize to parents that the higher-order thinking skills… essential for school success, such as task persistence, impulse control, emotion regulation, and creative, flexible thinking, are best taught through unstructured and social (not digital) play, as well as responsive parent–child interactions.”
So what are the new AAP recommendations you may wonder? Here’s a summary of the new guidelines:
- For children younger than 18 months: avoid all use of screen media other than video-chatting.
- For children 18-24 months: introduce digital media to your children with only “high-quality” programming, and watch it with them to help them understand it.
- For children ages 2 to 5 years: limit screen use to one hour per day of high-quality programs. Co-view media with your children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.
- For children ages 6 and older: place consistent limits on the time and types of media. Make sure media doesn’t take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health.
- Designate media-free times together: such as dinner or driving, as well as media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms.
- Have ongoing communication: about online citizenship and safety, including treating others with respect online and
Christi and I have developed the Screen-Balanced Family course for these very reasons. If you’re not sure where to begin, be sure to check out the workbook and video series. We walk families through what limits to set, how to have the conversation with your kids, and how to establish an ongoing Family Media Agreement.
One of the AAP pediatricians and researchers—who I happen to really admire—talked about the increasing trend he sees among parents who give their children a screen to comfort their child after an immunization.
“It often works,” he says, “but think about what’s being displaced there—what they need is a hug, not an iPhone.”