American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition
American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition
October 21, 2016
2 min read

AAP recommends 1-hour limit on digital media use for preschoolers

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SAN FRANCISCO — Parents are encouraged to limit digital media use among children aged 2 to 5 years to 1 hour per day until evidence for benefit of use is demonstrated, according to a policy statement released by the AAP’s Council on Communications and Media.

The statement was released in conjunction with the 2016 AAP National Conference and Exhibition.

Jenny Radesky, MD
Jenny Radesky

“Children younger than 2 years need hands-on exploration and social interaction with trusted caregivers to develop their cognitive, language, motor and social-emotional skills,” Jenny Radesky, MD, FAAP, assistant professor of pediatrics at the Boston University School of Medicine, and colleagues from the council wrote. “Because of their immature symbolic, memory and attentional skills, infants and toddlers cannot learn from traditional digital media as they do from interactions with caregivers, and they have difficulty transferring that knowledge to their 3-dimensional experience.”

The policy statement offers recommendations to pediatricians and parents to avoid excessive television and digital media screen time in children between infancy and 5 years of age to foster healthy cognitive development, secure relationships and good health behaviors through parent-child interaction and print book reading. Excessive digital media use during a child’s first 5 years have shown evidence of harm leading to obesity later in childhood, shorter night-time sleep intervals, poorer academic performance in preschool and difficult temperament or self-regulation problems.

In addition, the statement addresses the industry’s habit for heavily marketing to young children and encourages development of less distracting, shared child-parent interfaces that improve cognitive, literacy and social behaviors. In particular, Radesky and colleagues recommend that pediatricians:

  • Start talking to families early about family media use, media locations in the home, and child media habits;
  • Assist families to procure a Family Media Use plan with guidelines for children and parents;
  • Educate parents about media effects on early brain development and the importance of shared time in hands-on play to build language, cognitive and social skills;
  • Strongly recommend parents avoid media use for children younger than 18 months;
  • Encourage parents to share media use with children between 18 and 24 months; and
  • Recommend solutions to parents facing difficulties with setting time limits on media use, finding alternate play activities and soothing their children.

The statement encourages parents to:

  • Avoid digital media use in children younger than 18 months;
  • Limit screen time to 1 hour per day of high-quality programming for children between 2 and 5 years and help them apply what they view to the world around them;
  • Avoid distracting content;
  • Avoid using media to soothe a temperamental child; and
  • Monitor media content and apps the child chooses.

The media industry is encouraged to:

  • Avoid advertising unhealthy messages on apps to children in this age frame;
  • Design interfaces that encourage healthy brain development and promote shared parent-child media use;
  • Make high-quality accessible to all families; and
  • Stop auto-advance options of videos as the default setting so that parents can set limits and monitor content easily.

“Evidence is sufficient to recommend time limitations on digital media use for children 2 to 5 years to no more than 1 hour per day to allow children ample time to engage in other activities important to their health and development and to establish media viewing habits associated with lower risk of obesity later in life,” the researchers wrote. “In addition, encouraging parents to change to educational and prosocial content and engage with their children around technology will allow children to reap the most benefit from what they view.” – by Kate Sherrer

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.