Kids and Screen Time: Why It’s Important To Monitor

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Reading to your children has long been considered a healthy practice. It helps you engage with your child and builds a relationship, but new studies show this practice is much more important than that.

The topic of discussion here is kids and screen time (using digital devices) versus good old fashioned reading, and according to new guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics digital media exposure for children of all ages should be limited.

Kids and Screen Time

Infants 18 Months and Younger: No Screen Time

Dr. Yolanda Reid Chassiakos, lead author of the “Children and Adolescents and Digital Media Technical Report” and assistant professor at UCLA said for parents with infants, cutting off technology completely can be challenging.

Banning screen time for babies is hugely important for brain development and healthy parent-child connections, Chassiakos said.

“The noise and activity of a screen are distracting for a child,” she said.

Even if the baby isn’t directly looking at the screen — for example, if a mother is nursing her child on the couch while watching TV — the baby can be overstimulated by the lights and sounds, which may cause distress and sleep problems.

Perhaps most negatively, screen time causes a disconnect between parents and children.

Children 2 to 5 years: One Hour Per Day

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that when it comes to kids and screen time that “parents prioritize creative, unplugged playtime for infants and toddlers,” according to its press release.

Children this age can start to have screens but only for one hour a day. The type of media they are exposed to is critical: only high-quality programs, such as “Sesame Street” and other PBS shows should be viewed.

“Shows like ‘Sesame Street’ are much better than standard TV, because they don’t have advertisements, which tend to overstimulate children,” said Chassiakos.

Children 6 Years and Older: Limit Digital Media

When it comes to kids and screen time, parents are in charge of setting limits on digital media for kids and teens six and older, the academy says. The amount of daily screen time depends on the child and family, but children should prioritize productive time over entertainment time.

For healthy kids, an average day includes “school, homework time, at least one hour of physical activity, social contact and sleep — which is anywhere from eight to 12 hours for kids,” said Chassiakos. “Whatever’s left over can be screen time.”

Children Aren’t Reading Enough

In a 2014 survey of just over 1,000 children ages 6 to 17, only 31 percent said they read a book for fun almost daily, down from 37 percent four years ago, the New York Times reports.

There were some consistent patterns among the heavier readers: For the younger children — ages 6 to 11 — being read aloud to regularly and having restricted online time were correlated with frequent reading; for the older children — ages 12 to 17 — one of the largest predictors was whether they had time to read on their own during the school day.

Don’t Stop Reading to Your Children

The finding about reading aloud to children long after toddlerhood may come as a surprise to some parents who read books to children at bedtime when they were very young but then tapered off.

Last summer, the American Academy of Pediatrics announced a new policy recommending that all parents read to their children from birth.

According to the report, 41 percent of frequent readers ages 6 to 10 were read aloud to at home, while only 13 percent of infrequent readers were being read to.

This Downward Trend Does Impact The Future

According to the 2007 California Academic Performance Index, 57 percent of students failed the California Standards Test in English. There are six million students in the California school system and 25 percent of those students are unable to perform basic reading skills.

Three out of five people in American prisons can’t read, and to determine how many prison beds will be needed in future years, some states actually base part of their projection on how well current elementary students are performing on reading tests 85 percent of juvenile offenders have problems reading.

The Reading is Fundamental agency says America’s literacy crisis has reached epidemic proportions, with millions of children and adults affected each and every year by a never-ending cycle of educational disadvantage.

You Are In Control Of Your Kids And Screen Time

Keeping tech devices out of bedrooms is a good way to monitor kids’ digital media activity. Chassiakos recommends having children use computers in the living room, for example, to ensure they finish any online homework assignments before using entertainment media.

“This doesn’t mean you can’t play video games with your kids,” she said. “What’s most important is that families have media-free time, and when digital media is used, it’s used mainly for communication rather than entertainment.”

For help constructing a digital media plan for the whole family, the AAP recommends using the Family Media Plan tool, which can be found at healthychildren.org.

It’s important to keep the above information in mind when it comes to your kids and screen time. Ultimately- you’re the parent and know what is best for your child. We hope that we can aid in the growth of your connection that you are developing with your child. If you have any thoughts, we would love to hear them. Thanks for reading! You can learn more about us and our values here. 

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