American children and teens have almost constant exposure to a wide range of media — such as smart phones, social media and television — and kids’ use of such media must be carefully managed, child experts say, as smartphones, social media, and TV take up large chunks of most kids’ days.
Excessive media use has been associated with obesity, lack of sleep, school problems, aggression and other behavior problems, according to a news release from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
The group said a recent study found that 8- to 10-year-olds spend an average of nearly eight hours a day with media, and the daily average for older children and teens is more than 11 hours. About three-quarters of 12- to 17-year-olds own cellphones, and nearly all teens use text messaging.
Despite such widespread availability, many children and teens have few rules around their media use, according to the AAP.
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“A healthy approach to children’s media use should both minimize potential health risks and foster appropriate and positive media use — in other words, it should promote a healthy ‘media diet,'” Dr. Marjorie Hogan said in an AAP news release. “Parents, educators and pediatricians should participate in media education, which means teaching children and adolescents how to make good choices in their media consumption.”
Hogan is co-author of a revised AAP policy statement that offers parents and pediatricians tips on how to manage children’s and teens’ media use.
Parents should help their children learn to be selective in their media use, and take an active role in educating their children by viewing programs with them and discussing values, according to the statement. Parents also should make a media plan for their children. It should include mealtime and bedtime curfews and should ban media in kids’ bedrooms.
Limit children’s entertainment screen time to less than one or two hours a day, the experts said. Children younger than 2 years old should not have any screen time.
Pediatricians should ask parents how much time their children spend with media and if there is a television or Internet-connected device in a child’s bedroom. More details about media use should be gathered if children or teens are at risk for obesity, aggression, substance use or school problems.
The policy statement urged pediatricians to work with schools to encourage media education, innovative use of technology to help students learn and the creation of rules about what content is suitable for access on devices in the classroom.
Pediatricians also need to challenge the entertainment industry to create positive content for children and teens, and to push for strong rules about how products are marketed to youth, the AAP said.
In the policy statement, the AAP called on the federal government to commission a report on what is known about media’s effects on youth and the type of research that needs to be conducted, along with ways to fund such research.
The policy statement was released Oct. 28 at the AAP’s national meeting and published online in the journal Pediatrics.