How much screen time and what types of media are appropriate for our children? In general less television and media is better for young children, and when media is used it should be high quality programming. Also, commercials and prime time television programming should be avoided since it includes commercialized, violent and/or sexualized imaging (Steyer, 2002). It is up to parents to monitor screen time usage and content to make sure it is appropriate. The monitoring of electronic usage only becomes more important as children grow older and engage in social media. It is important to set the parameters and the rules around good media habits when children are young.
I personally believe there are advantages of technology and media. Schools are moving to include more technology in the classroom. Homework is done on the computer and can be tailored to children’s strengths and needs. Our children growing up in this media age seem to be born with the ability to use tablets, computers, and other electronic media. My kids, after the age of 2, love watching television and now as they get older like to play video games. Educational programming and the educational apps make learning fun and allows access to other ways of learning. Conversely youth can become inactive learners in front of a screen. They can become obsessed with games that encourage them to log in day after day during certain times.
In our family, media is very much a part of our lives but we limit screen time, monitor the types of media that is used, and do not watch adult programming in front of our children. We limit screen time to an hour. Screen time is a privilege and it is only allowed after school work and extracurricular activities have been completed. It takes a back seat to other activities such as sports, art, board games, etc.
American Academy of Pediatrics (2016) has the following recommendations for screen media:
- For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting. Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming, and watch it with their children to help them understand what they’re seeing.
- For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.
- For children ages 6 and older, place consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health.
- Designate media-free times together, such as dinner or driving, as well as media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms.
- Have ongoing communication about online citizenship and safety, including treating others with respect online and offline.
Steyer (2002) also has the following guidelines about what parents can do to control the media’s influence on our children:
- Establish good media habits- watching television should be a privilege not a habit or constant activity. Set limits, and pay attention to the content
- Do not put a TV in your child’s room
- Set a time limit or “no TV week” and stick to it
- Teach your child to ask permission to use media
- Watch and listen with your kids—use this as an opportunity to discuss what you like, don’t like and why
- Set clear rules about media usage with friends or family when your kids go on a playdate
For more information, check out these sources:
Steyer, J.P (2002). The Other Parent: The Inside Story of the Media’s Effect on Our Children. Atria Books: New York, NY.