Electronic Media Use and Your Child

November 16, 2016
With the winter months fast approaching, many families can expect to see rainy-day screen time exposure surge in the coming weeks. But what is an appropriate amount of time for your child to be using electronic media and what are the consequences to learning and development as a result of this exposure?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has just released new guidelines for electronic media exposure and actually offers an interactive tool that can be used to schedule an age-appropriate amount of time built in to each day that serves to aid families in limiting screen time. 

The new AAP guidelines focus on limiting exposure to entertainment screen time to one to two hours per day, keeping screens out of children’s bedrooms and focusing on human interaction over electronic media use. If electronic media are being used, they should be used in an interactive setting, and with a parent taking an active role, as opposed to being a passive observer, in the media experience. 

Screen time can impact a child’s sleep, language development and social skills in coping with emotional stressors (leading to behavior issues and aggression). It also can put a child at increased risk for obesity. 

However, if electronic media are used as an interactive mode of play with parental involvement, instead of in the use of parallel play or as a calming technique, this tends to promote learning and curiosity. The avoidance of screens as a calming technique is particularly important as a child must learn self-soothing behaviors independent of electronic media. 

Avoiding screen time at least one hour prior to bedtime can provide some cerebral respite and prepare the brain for sleep each night. Finding times during the day that are “screen-free” in your home, such as dinner time, can provide your family with a way to reconnect and focus on face-to-face interaction. Even having rooms (such as bedrooms) free of electronic use can serve a similar purpose. Talk with your child or teen about his or her “online footprint,” online safety and cyberbullying.  

Share your family media rules with all caregivers involved in your child’s life. Your pediatrician can also serve as a resource and as a “mediatrician” to help you work on a plan that works for your family. With your active involvement, your child will be able to focus on what matters most during the winter months, spending quality screen-free time with family. 

If you have questions and you’d like to discuss this with a pediatrician, please call Swedish Pediatrics at 1-800-793-3474
Topics: Kids, Wellness