SCREEN TIME FOR KIDS – THOUGHTS ABOUT THE NEW AAP RECOMMENDATIONS

Note from QCMB: We love sharing stories and ideas that may help you as a parent. And today, we’re thrilled to share some thoughts from a local dad!

Thanks to Michael Carton, director of education and outreach for WQPT – Quad Cities PBS (and dad to Bubba, age 5),  for sharing this post about a question many parents have in lights of the new AAP recommendations – how much screen time is too much?

(Please note: We believe that as parents, we all have to make the best decisions for our kids and families.)

Screen time for kidsMost days, I like to think that I’m doing a pretty good job raising my son. Of course, there are also days when I wonder how (despite me) my son is turning out to be such an amazing kid.

A few weeks ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released screen time recommendations for parents (HERE) and it led me to think about whether I’ve followed these guidelines with my own son.

Here is a quick summary of the AAP’s recommendations on screen time for children:

  • For infants and toddlers, parents should focus on creative and unplugged playtime. Other than video chatting with family and friends, screen time should be avoided for children under 18 months.
  • For children between 18 and 24 months, parents should only introduce high-quality media programming like PBS KIDS programming (and co-viewing and co-playing are strongly encouraged).
  • For children 2-5 years of age, screen time should be limited to one hour per day, and parents are encouraged to co-view media with their children
  • For children 6 years of age and older, parents are encouraged to place boundaries and limitations on the use of media.

As I read the AAP’s recommendations, I thought about my 5-year-old’s screen time. I think I did a pretty good job the first couple years of his life (because I kept him away from screens those first two years), but I wondered if I failed miserably as he got older! The AAP recommends limiting screen time for 2-5 year olds to just one hour per day.

One hour per day?!

I remember sitting and watching episode after episode of Peg + Cat on Saturday mornings with my son when he was 3 years old and thinking how great it was that he was learning math concepts.

I remember letting him watch Daniel Tiger on Netflix over summer vacation and getting the little box that pops up and asks if we’re still watching (and we were!).

I remember letting him play Odd Squad’s Blob Chase on his iPad for well over an hour on numerous occasions because he was learning problem-solving skills.

There were so many days that I let him have more than one hour of screen time. Think of all the damage that must have done to him! 

On the other hand, I was watching all those episodes of Peg + Cat and Daniel Tiger right alongside him – and the AAP makes it clear that parents should be co-viewing with their children (not leaving their children to sit alone in front of the screen). I also introduced him to only high-quality educational programming (PBS KIDS television programs and apps), another recommendation from the AAP.

So when it comes to screen time, I realize now that I got some things right and other things wrong. And maybe you feel the same way.

I may have let my son watch too much TV and play too long on his iPad, but at least I got it wrong in a good way! All that extra time he spent in front of the screen was while watching educational programs.

Going forward, the AAP recommendations make it clear what is best for children when it comes to screen time.

Like every other parent, I want what’s best for my son. That means that I may need to adjust our habits going forward. 

So, I’m going to continue to make sure my son watches high-quality educational programming from PBS KIDS, but I’m also going to follow the time limits set for his age range.

And as always, I’m going to do this knowing that I know my child best and have to make the best decisions for him as a parent. (And I think you do, too.)

What about you? What are your thoughts about screen time with kids?

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