How Much Screen Time Is Appropriate for Children?

The American Academy of Pediatrics has recently posted an article on its magazine addressing the issue of how parents should manage their children's exposure and usage of technology at home. The themes explored in the article begin with the realization that with a device, children are actually doing the same things as in other environment such as playing, reading, communicating, or getting entertained. The main difference lies only in the medium. With a smart device, it is either purely virtual or merely online, not face-to-face.  Thus, figuring out how much screen time is appropriate for children should be guided similarly as determining how much time should a child be allowed to spend in a playground, if the screen time is about playing.

Above copied from
Ari Brown, M.D., FAAP, Donald L. Shifrin, M.D., FAAP and David L. Hill, M.D., FAAP, "Beyond ‘turn it off’: How to advise families on media use", AAP NEWS Vol. 36 No. 10 October 1, 2015, pp. 54 (doi: 10.1542/aapnews.20153610-54)
Screen time can become isolating. As in watching television, parents need to be involved. Viewing a show together can enhance social interactions between children and parents. Playing a video game together is really no different from playing a board game. Taking turns, being polite, and showing good sportsmanship can likewise be learned on the screen.

With technology increasingly penetrating our daily routines, it is necessary for children to become acquainted with these applications. Children who never learned to ride a bike or who have never experienced going down a slide may easily stand out among their peers. The same can hold true for technology.

With any medium, content is important. There is no denying that technology could offer access to so much information.

With the above in mind, the following is a tentative list of suggestions (These are copied from Growing Up Digital:Media Research SymposiumAmerican Academy of Pediatrics, October 2015):

  • Set limits at every age. Limit-setting is key in digital media use — just like in diet, behavior, sleep, and parenting in general. Parenting strategies are the same across various environments, including screen media. 
  • Avoid displacement. When using digital media, caregivers should consider what it is displacing, and strive to maintain protected time for conversation, play, and creativity. 
  • Address digital etiquette. Children and young adults must learn that online interactions should follow the same social guidelines as face-to-face encounters. Conversations about appropriate content, etiquette, empathy, and safety should occur early to provide a foundation for all digital media use. 
  • Engage in using digital media together. Parents were advised to let their children show them what they are doing online; this helps children feel empowered and helps the parent learn while both are engaged. While classic parent-child activities like reading a story or playing a game look different in digital formats, it remains important to value time spent together. 
  • Create definitive media-free zones. Create media-free zones such as during meal times and at bedtime, and set aside specific days or hours as “media-free” periods. Parents should also eliminate background TV, which dramatically reduces conversation or “talk time” with children. 
  • Model media behaviors. Adults need to be attentive to their own personal digital media use (or over-use). Parents and other caregivers may ignore their children when using their own devices, and parental behavior provides strong modeling for children’s behavior, including adult digital media use. 
The last one is especially important. Adults likewise forget rules of courtesy and respect when they are online. Just because one is on Facebook for example, it does not mean we could be disrespectful, inconsiderate or bullying.