The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) just released a new policy statement to help families create and foster a healthy “media diet” for their kids. The policy statement did a great job of summarizing and sourcing interesting studies done with children related to screen time already — including studies related to Apple’s FaceTime and Microsoft’s Skype.
Here are some of the key takeaways:
The AAP’s Policy statement is for children ages 0 to 5 years of age — a time the AAP states is critical for brain development, securing relationships, and establishing health behaviors.
For children younger than 2 years:
- Evidence for benefits of media is limited, but there does continue to be evidence of harm from excessive digital media use.
- If a child is engaging in FaceTime or Skype it’s important to have close parental supervision.
For children 3 to 5 years of age:
- Apps from Sesame Workshop and Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) have shown they can teach literacy skills to preschoolers. However, most of the apps found in the “educational” section of the app store don’t have the same efficacy.
- eBooks often come with interactive multimedia that can be distracting and may actually decrease comprehension. Parents should use eBooks similar to print books.
- More screen time means increasing BMI. Of note — watching TV while eating can diminish attention to satiety cues, causing increasing BMI.
- Studies show fewer minutes of sleep at night if there is a television or mobile device in the bedroom of a child. An explanation mentioned is blue light. We have written about blue light’s effect before on iMedicalApps when detailing how Apple’s new Night Shift mode works.
- More screen time means less parent child interaction, and worse child cognition and language — also social and emotional delays.
Parents use of media
- This was one of the most interesting takeaways of the article. Parent use of mobile devices causes fewer verbal and nonverbal interactions between parents and children — can can be associated with more parent child conflict and distracts from parent-child interactions. Further, a parents screen time is a strong predictor of a child’s media habits in the future.
Bottom line takeaways:
- For children younger than 18 months — other than video chatting, such as FaceTime and Skype — screen time should be avoided.
- No screen time during meals and 1 hour before bedtime.
- Parents should focus on apps and channels related to PBS Kids, Sesame Workshop
- For children 2 to 5 years of age — no more than 1 hour per day of screen time.
- Making sure when screen time is happening the content is educational and interactive.
- Consider using HealthyChildren.org’s Family media plan to plan screen time. We have reviewed the Healthy Children app before.
- There is no pressure to “teach kids” how to use mobile devices early. They are easy to learn and kids won’t be “left behind”.
- Parents should limit their use of mobile devices and screen time in front of children, and consider placing their phones in “Do not disturb” in key moments throughout the day.