Admit it, as parents we all need a break sometimes and find it easy and convenient to reach out for that iPad, Tab or handphone and pass it over to our kid to buy ourselves some time for a quick breather.
And of course, soon after we spend guilty moments thinking how many of our kids’ grey cells were killed while they were on the screen.
It’s not easy to completely avoid exposing your child to “screen time”, given how we are constantly surrounded by mobile devices, be it at home, at the office, or even in school.
But what are researchers now saying about allowing your child to use mobile devices? How much is too much and how have the guidelines changed? We have the latest update about children and screen time for all concerned parents to make note of.
Keeping up with the times
In 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) made a policy statement, Media Use by Children Younger Than Two Years, which discourages screen time for children under the age of two years and to limit the amount of screen time for those over two years of age.
However, recently they have since acknowledged that we are now in a world where “screen time” is simply known as just “time”, thus their policies have to evolve or risk becoming obsolete.
So after the AAP evaluated some updated data, they are now saying that it is fine for children under the age of two to be exposed to screen time as well as children above the age of two, provided that parents follow their revised guidelines.
Modern technology is the way of the future and there is no escaping it.
Although some parents may feel guilty about letting their little ones stay glued to a mobile device for a few episodes of Dora the Explorer, the American Academy of Pediatrics have now revised their guidelines on children and screen time.
They now include 12 key points for all parents to make note of when it comes to their children and screen time:
1. Media is just another environment
Children still do the same things they have always done, only now it can also be done virtually. Like any environment, media can have both positive and negative effects.
2. Parenting has not changed
The same parenting rules still apply whether it be in the real world or in the virtual environment. Feel free to play with them and don’t be afraid to set limits for your kids.
3. Role modelling is critical
Children mimic behaviour they see in grown-ups, so as the parent, you have to limit your own media usage, model online etiquette and lead by example.
4. We learn from each other
Young children learn best via two-way communication, so “talk time” between a caregiver and a child is crucial for their language development. If your child just watches passive video presentations, this will not lead to effective language learning and it is also important to remember that media should not replace live interactions.
5. Content matters
Quality of the online content is actually more important than the platform or how much time is spent with media, so be sure to monitor what exactly your child watches, rather than worry about setting a time limit.
6. Curation helps
Although there are currently thousands of apps available on the market right now which are labelled as educational, there is little research to actually validate their claims. You can check with trusted organisations such as Common Sense Media to review age-appropriate apps, games and programs for your little ones.
A recent statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics says that it is now safe for young children to have some screen time, provided that parents are aware of the 12 key points. The final six being:
7. Co-engagement counts
It is good to include family participation with media as this will help with social interactions and learning. By playing a video game with your kids, your own perspective influences how your children understand their media experience. As for infants and toddlers, co-viewing is actually essential.
8. Playtime is important
Playtime is important for your child’s development and creativity, so remember to allocate some daily playtime away from the screen, especially if your kids are still very young.
9. Set limits
Like all other activities, tech use should also have reasonable limits. If your child’s technology seems to hinder their participation in other activities, then it is time to set a few ground rules.
10. It’s OK for your teen to be online
If you are worried about your teen’s time spent online, you can teach them how to be a responsible digital citizen and how to use the internet wisely. Remember that social media can actually support their identity formation, so give them some freedom to express themselves in the online world.
11. Create tech-free zones
By creating tech-free zones, you can encourage family time, healthier eating habits and even healthier sleep. Set simple rules such as no mobile devices are allowed during family mealtimes, or devices can only be recharged overnight outside of your child’s room.
12. Kids will be kids
Kids will make mistakes be it online or offline, so take these as learning points and handle them with empathy. However, if the problem is more serious and involves sexting or posting self-harm images, this is a red flag and your youth might have to be assessed for other risk-taking behaviours.
Parental supervision is still advised
Although the new policy statement now gives the green light for kids of all ages to have some screen time, that doesn’t mean you should allow your child to veg out in front of the screen for hours on end without adult supervision.
Parents should still remember the 12 key points as mentioned by the AAP to closely monitor your child, set some rules, lead by example, teach your older kids to be smart digital citizens, and make sure that your child gets to enjoy other activities offline as well.
Do you agree with the new guideline on children and screen time? What are the rules that you set for your kids when it comes to using mobile devices? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below!