How much screen time is healthy for kids? Parents who are unsure of the answer can turn to a new set of guidelines put forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
"Families should proactively think about their children’s media use and talk with children about it, because too much media use can mean that children don’t have enough time during the day to play, study, talk or sleep," Dr. Jenny Radesky, a pediatrician at the University of Michigan and a co-author of the new recommendations, said in a statement. "What’s most important is that parents be their child’s 'media mentor.' That means teaching them how to use it as a tool to create, connect and learn." [7 Signs Your Child Is an iPad Addict]
Screen time for children younger than 18 months should be avoided, except in the case of video chatting, according to the recommendations, which were published today (Oct. 21) in the journal Pediatrics.
Parents of children ages 18 months to 2 years who choose to introduce digital media into their children's lives should choose high-quality programs, and they should watch these programs with their kids to help them understand what exactly they are seeing, according to the recommendations.
The parents of children ages 2 to 5 years should limit kids' screen time to 1 hour per day, according to the recommendations. As with children under the age of 2, parents should also view such media together with their children, to help them understand what they are seeing and how it might apply to the world around them, the researchers recommended.
For kids ages 6 years and older, parents should place consistent limits on how much screen time they are allowed per day. Parents should also make sure that kids do not use digital media at the expense of activities that are important for their health, such as sleep and exercise. [Children's Sleep: New Guidelines on Shut-Eye for Kids]
Parents should also designate specific "media-free" times for the family, such as dinnertime, for example. In addition, certain areas of the home, such as bedrooms, should also be deemed "media-free," according to the recommendations.
The recommendations also offered guidance on how parents should talk to their kids about online behavior. For example, parents should teach kids to treat others with respect, both online and offline. They should also talk to kids about their safety in online environments, the researchers recommended.
The new recommendations are a reminder that parents should be very selective about the types of apps and programs that they allow their children to use, said Dr. Minu George, the chief of general pediatrics at Cohen Children's Medical Center, in New Hyde Park, New York, who was not involved in the new recommendations.
For example, if an app is labeled as "educational," that does not automatically mean that it is good for children to use it, George said.
"Just because it says it is educational does not mean that it is something that will help the child grow and develop well," she told Live Science. "There is nothing that can replace that intimate interaction between children and their parents."
Originally published on Live Science.