Hi, my name is Dr. Brenda Hussey-Gardner. I am a developmental specialist who works with the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital. I attended the American Academy of Pediatrics conference in San Francisco to share the results of research that I have done with colleagues here at the University of Maryland and to learn what other researchers are doing across the nation in order to bring this new knowledge back to the hospital to better serve our children and their families. At this conference, the American Academy of Pediatrics released their new guidelines regarding screen time and children.
Please see the Q&A here for more information on these guidelines.
Q: What is the “No Screens Under 2” rule and in what ways is it changing?
A: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) previously recommended no screen time for children under 2 years of age. In its new guidelines, the AAP offers slightly different recommendations for children less than 18 months and those 18 to 24 months of age.
Children less than 18 months
The AAP discourages parents from using digital media with one exception: video-chatting (e.g., Skype, FaceTime). This form of interactive media can be used, with parent support, to foster social relationships with distant relatives.
Children 18 to 24 months
The AAP recommends that parents, who want to introduce their child to digital media, do the following:
- Only use high-quality educational content.
- Always watch shows or use apps with your child. Talking about what the child sees helps foster learning.
- Never allow your child to use media alone.
- Limit media to a maximum of 1 hour per day.
- Avoid all screen time during meals, parent-child playtime and an hour before bedtime.
Q: Can you provide some insight into how the decision was made? What research was taken into account?
A: The AAP Council on Communications and Media reviewed research on child development, television, videos and mobile/interactive technologies to develop their current recommendations. Research shows that children under the age of 2 years need two things to develop their thinking, language, motor and social-emotional skills: (1) they need to interact with their parents and other loving caregivers, and (2) they need hands-on experiences with the real world. In fact, researchers have demonstrated that infants and toddlers don’t yet have the symbolic, memory and attention skills needed to learn from digital media. Importantly, research also shows evidence of harm (e.g., delayed thinking, language and social-emotional development; poorer executive functioning) from excessive media use with young children.
Q: Why do these new guidelines matter to parents, and should they affect the ways parents and their young children interact with technology?
A: AAP guidelines matter because parents want their children to be well adjusted and smart, and they don’t want to do anything that may harm their child’s development. As such, parents should try their best to avoid screens with their children who are less than 18 months of age and realize that it is their interactions with their child that are the most important. Then, from 18 to 24 months of age, parents should strive to use only the highest quality educational technology with their child. As hard as it is, parents should try to avoid using technology as a babysitter and try to understand the negative impact that it can have on their child’s development.
Q: What is your biggest take-away from the session?
A: A parent’s lap is always better than any app!
Q: What is your opinion on the new guidelines and do you think it will affect your clinical practice? If so, how?
A: I believe that the new AAP guidelines, while a little more flexible, may still be difficult for parents to adhere to, as screen time is so pervasive in our society. However, it is very important for parents to make smart choices about digital media and screen time if they want to help their infant and toddler develop into a child who is healthy and ready for success in preschool. It is my goal to develop a pamphlet summarizing the research findings and AAP guidelines to help parents make the best choices for their child and family.
For more information about media, screen time, and child development, parents are encouraged to read the AAP recommendations located within the publication “Media and Young Minds,” and to read the “Early Learning and Educational Technology Brief” published by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.