Many parents can tell you that battles and meltdowns over screen time, whether it’s the TV, iPad, computer or phone, are all too common. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently updated their screen time recommendations to help parents establish healthy media habits.
“Parents are their children’s media mentors,’” said Avni Jain, MD, a family medicine physician with Adventist Medical Group. “The new regulations strongly encourage parents to be more active, not just in setting rules, but also by setting a good example with their own behaviors. That includes putting the phone away, enjoying activities and hobbies outside of the TV and always making time to read.”
AAP Screen Time Recommendations
2 and under
The AAP continues to recommend that children under 2 years of age do not watch any television or play on any devices.
“Babies and toddlers learn best from 3D imagery and engagement,” said Dr. Jain. “That can only come from parents, siblings, grandparents or caregivers talking, playing, reading and singing with them – not from a screen.”
Screen Time Alternatives for Babies and Toddlers (under 2)
- Read board books together
- Attend a library story time
- Go for a walk
- Stack blocks
- Do simple sensory activities
According to the latest AAP guidelines, children between the ages of 3-5 should only watch one hour of high-quality programming, such as Sesame Street. The AAP also encourages parents to co-watch shows with their children to help them understand and apply the lessons they learn.
“This is an important correction to previous recommendations, which had screen time at up to two hours for this age group,” said Dr. Jain. “Research repeatedly shows that preschoolers learn best through interactive, hands-on learning and by exploring and investigating the world around them.”
Screen Time Alternatives for Preschoolers (ages 3-5)
- Go on a scavenger hunt
- Read books together
- Create busy boxes
- Set out puzzles or coloring books for independent play
- Make crafts together
Ages 6 and Older
The AAP recommends that parents set consistent limits on screen time, including the type of devices and activities allowed for children ages 6 and up. Media should always be a last resort, with time first devoted to school, homework, after-school activities and family time.
“This new recommendation allows for more flexibility based on families’ needs, but it doesn’t mean screen time should become a free-for-all,” cautioned Dr. Jain. “Parents should still set the example and monitor screen time to ensure it doesn’t interfere with homework, activities or sleep.” Designate media-free times together, such as dinner or driving, as well as media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms.
Screen Time Alternatives for Children (ages 6 and up)
- Have a family game night
- Explore a nearby park as a family
- Read, independently or together
- Create science experiments
- Encourage a new hobby or activity