The European Academy of Paediatrics (EAP) and The European Childhood Obesity Group (ECOG) in a joint statement and the American Pediatric Association (APA) recently published updated screen time recommendations for parents and professionals. We’re bringing you the overview of the most important guidelines on healthy screen time amounts parents can use to tailor the family screen time plan.
The EAP and ECOG recommend that children under 12 should not own smartphones. Further, they advise parents to evaluate the adequate time to give the kids their own smartphone based on their own judgment.
The new screen time recommendations place more responsibility on the parents and recognize that not all screen time is necessarily harmful.
As APA guidelines suggest, parents shouldn’t always assume that technology is inherently harmful but need to rely on their personal experience when deciding what screen activities are suitable, as well.
Both European and American professionals agree on this screen time recommendation: daily screen time limit should be set to lower than 2 hours daily, ideally an hour and a half.
Children under the age of two ideally should have no screen time, except during video calls, on rare occasions.
The children under the age of four should be supervised while engaging with media, and the kids aged 5 to 6 should have an hour of screen time daily.
Above the age of six, APA advises that parents should come up with a consistent screen time schedule, and tailor the limits to their specific family circumstances.
The next screen time recommendation aims to prevent physical damage potentially caused by the excessive screen time.
To prevent digital eye strain and ensure the proper eye development, ensure that your kids keep the minimum viewing distance of 20-30 centimeters between the kids’ head and the device screen.
Building this habit in the early age can help prevent issues like nearsightedness, which are becoming a worldwide epidemic.
In their most recent screen time recommendations, APA advises parents to put more focus on the type of digital content kids consume during the screen time, than to merely think that limiting the amount of screen time is enough.
This advice is urged by data showing that not all digital interactions are harmful, but quite the opposite. Quality apps and content can promote cognitive development. Besides, more and more school-related activities involve digital content.
The essential advice both European and US experts agree on is that parents should actively engage and interpret the digital content to their children. This advice mainly applies to the advertisements and promotional messaging that promotes products directly to children.
Children are only developing critical thinking skills and are learning to differentiate online from the real world, it’s up to the parents to guide and interpret the content.
As a parent, it is your responsibility to assure the content your kids are exposed to is high-quality and appropriate for children. Aside from educational apps and games tailored for children, ensure the content your children see on social networks, and YouTube is age-appropriate.
The interactive and creative playtime, together with diverse activities are essential for optimal physical and emotional development in childhood. Physical activity is critical not only for obesity prevention, as the EAP and ECOG advise, but it is also vital for building quality social interactions and promoting fine motor development.
Teach your children about online safety and online privacy. You as a parent need to prepare your kids about what (if any) information they should share online, with whom and in which situations.
You should be actively engaged in monitoring the content your kids share and be there to frame negative or hurtful comments they might encounter online.
Most adverse effects of screen time come from excess use. When children are spending hours tied to smartphones or playing video games, then the issues related to obesity, attention and emotional development may arise. This is why one of the essential screen time recommendations that came up in 2018. is to break up screen time into bite-sized portions.
Teaching your kids to engage with digital devices in smaller 20-minute chunks, and take breaks, for example when they complete a level in a game, sets them up with a good habit for life.
As one recent study done with 530 German children finds, kids who were exposed to screens at bedtime, whether by watching TV or using smartphones and tablets, have more sleep problems. They have more problems falling asleep and get less than recommended 10 hours of sleep time.
The European and American professionals agree on this vital screen time recommendation: kids shouldn’t be allowed to take the devices to their bedrooms, or watch TV for at least an hour before bedtime. Not getting enough sleep can deeply impact the attention, mood and irritability.
Nikolina is a psychologist (BSc) and a school counsellor. She focuses on writing about childhood development and other mental health topics in an easy-to-understand and fact-based manner. Nikolina’s writing about mental health matters relies on acceptance and mindfulness-based psychotherapy approaches.
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