New guidelines break down screen time for children by age

An influential group of doctors has revised its long-standing recommendation regarding the amount of screen time children should have per day. While it once issued a general limit it to two hours per day, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now suggests each family devise a plan that accounts for the health, education and entertainment needs of the child and the rest of the family.

“Families should proactively think about their children’s media use and talk with children about it, because too much media can mean that children don’t have enough time during the day to play, study, talk or sleep,” Jenny Radesky, lead author of “Media and Young Minds,” said in a statement on the group’s website. “What’s most important is that parents be their child’s ‘media mentor.’ That means teaching them how to use it as a tool to create, connect and learn.”

The group recommends parents prioritize unplugged playtime for infants and toddlers, but also recognize possible educational value that media can offer children beginning around 18 months of age. The group cautioned media introduced at this age must be high-quality programming, and that too much media can harm the amount and quality of sleep.

Among the AAPs new recommendations are guidelines to avoid any screen media except for video chatting for children younger than 18 months. The group advises that children between 18 and 24 months only be exposed to high-quality programming, and that those ages 2 to 5 years be limited to one hour of screen time involving high-quality programs. According to the new policy, parents of children ages six and older should place consistent limits on time spent using media and the types of media and make sure it does not take place of adequate sleep, physical activity or other heathy behaviors.

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The new policy also recommends parents designate media-free times spent together as a family, as well as media-free zones within the home.

“Today’s generation of children and adolescents is growing up immersed in media,” AAP said in a statement. “This includes platforms that allow users to both consume and create content, including broadcast and streamed television and movies, sedentary and active video games, social and interactive media that can be creative and engaging, and even highly immersive virtual reality.”