The American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) hosted a national conference in San Francisco, where approximately 10,000 pediatricians gathered to debate children's health recommendations for 2017. Among other suggestions, children's screen time, social media time and cyberbullying were some of the peaks of interest.
Exposure to media has increased significantly during the last decade, impacting not only adults — in communicational ways never before thought possible — but their children as well. Attention to visual stimuli is the core connection between kids and media, and an average child spends no less than seven hours a day exposed to TV, phones, computers or other gadgets.
The conference proposed a Family Media Use Plan as a means to help children spend time on online entertainment with maximum educational benefits.
"Families should proactively think about their children's media use and talk with children about it, because too much media use can mean that children don't have enough time during the day to play, study, talk, or sleep. 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," explained Jenny Radesky, MD, FAAP, lead author of the policy statement.
Because the Family Media Use Plan is something the AAP thought should be expanded to the entire family —maximizing media benefits and family time— a second policy statement called "Media Use in School-Aged Children and Adolescents" offered media consumption guidelines for children aged 5 to 18. The kit comes together with a technical report, providing a review of scientific literature, to support the core ideas behind the policies. The documents will be published in the November 2016 Pediatrics journal.
As part of the guidelines, screen time is defined as time spent using digital media exclusively for entertainment; uses that are constructive in terms of homework, or different tasks are not part of this definition.
Accordingly, the academy recommended a limited time of one screen time hour per day for children younger than five, while for the ones who are six and above, parents should be the agents to determine the proper amount that would correspond to their children's needs, monitoring their digital media activity.
Limiting their access to some types of content was also one of the recommendations in the kit. Moreover, children under 18 months should not be exposed to any type of digital media, according to the experts. The pediatricians nuanced their statements this year more than ever. There no longer exists a universally recommended time interval for every age; each parent should be able to decide how much digital exposure they children can take in one day without negative repercussions.