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One of the most common questions parents have these days is how much screen time is appropriate for kids. The answer is not one-size-fits-all, of course; it depends on the child, the family, and what the child is watching. What’s clear, though, is the importance of limiting your children’s screen time. Research has shown that there are language delays in kids who watch more television.
So what can parents and caregivers do? How much screen time is good for your kids? Here is what the experts say.
New guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics
According to Amanda Lenhart, who researches how families use technology at The AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs, part of the problem with defining what constitutes a healthy amount of screen time is that parents nowadays didn’t grow up with digital technology, so they don’t have their own experience to draw from.
Therefore, for guidance parents often rely on organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics, who lifted their “no screen time for kids under 2” recommendation in 2016. Now, the AAP says that screen time should still be discouraged for babies under 18 months, with exceptions for things like Skype calls or FaceTime with family members.
For parents who want to introduce screen time to toddlers between 18 and 24 months old, the AAP now recommends doing so with high-quality programming, and viewing the programs with your kids. Screens should not be a babysitter.
They recommend that children between two and five years old have an hour or less of screen time per day. A very small number of studies have shown that kids can learn new words from educational media, but only if parents are watching with them, repeating what the video says, and bringing your child’s attention to what is happening in the video—kind of like story time, but with a screen.
The AAP and other education experts stress parent participation in their children’s digital experiences and to steer kids towards creative and fun programs. They recommend Sesame Workshop and PBS for their evidence-based educational media.
Model healthy screen time behavior
Recent research from Common Sense Media showed that parents spend an average of nine and a half hours a day in front of a screen. Moreover, 80% of parents feel that they are modeling good media watching habits for their kids. It’s important to not only monitor and limit your children’s screen time but to also be mindful of your own and what message you’re sending to your kids.