SAN FRANCISCO — Parents and health care providers should work together to construct a Family Media Use Plan for children aged 5 to 18 years that considers the child’s health, temperament and developmental stage, according to an AAP policy statement published in conjunction with the 2016 AAP National Conference and Exhibition.
“Overall media use among adolescents has continued to grow over the past decade, aided by the recent increase in mobile phone use among teenagers,” Megan Moreno, MD, MSEd, MPH, FAAP, an associate professor of pediatrics and adjunct associate professor of health services at Seattle Children’s Hospital, and colleagues from the AAP’s Council on Communications and Media wrote. “Approximately three-quarters of teenagers today own a smartphone, which allows access to the Internet, streaming TV/videos, and interactive ‘apps’. Approximately one-quarter of teenagers describe themselves as ‘constantly connected’ to the Internet.”
The policy statement includes both benefits and risks to physical and mental health of television screen time and social media participation. Media encourages self-expression, provides exposure to novel information, raises awareness of social issues and events and promotes community participation. However, children and adolescents who indulge too much in media are at risk for weight gain and obesity, sleep deprivation, a lower attention span to successfully perform academically, Internet gaming disorder and potential cyberbullying and sexting situations.
Moreno and colleagues recommend pediatricians:
- Problem-solve with families to avoid children sexting, cyberbullying, Internet gaming disorder and overall problematic Internet use;
- Advocate for and promote children receiving training in media literacy; and
- Include parents in constructing guidelines for adequate sleep and exercise using a Family Media Use Plan.
The AAP Council on Communication and Media also recommend parents and families:
- Follow a Family Media Use Plan consistently to provide children and adolescents with structure including limits on screen time, adequate exercise and sleep;
- Share in media selection and viewing with children;
- Have open discussions about online citizenship and safety, including social wariness; and
- Develop a trusted network of adults to whom children can turn when they meet media challenges.
In addition, the Council encourages researchers, governmental organizations and industry to continue researching the risks and benefits of media to children and adolescents and inform educators and legislators on their findings.
“Parents play an important role in helping children and teens navigate media, which can have both positive and negative effects,” Moreno said in a press release. “Parents can set expectations and boundaries to make sure their children’s media experience is a positive one. The key is mindful use of media within a family.” – by Kate Sherrer
Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial relationships to disclose.