Summer is here, and many kids are enjoying their freedom from the structure and academic expectations of the school year. For some families, this increase in free time can result in an unhealthy amount of increase in media use, which can be tempting to allow when the alternative is boredom and the associated complaining! I hope the following information helps you create a plan for healthy media use for your family. -Donna Kirchoff, MD
The following information is from the October 2016 American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement “Media Use in School-Aged Children and Adolescents” – written by the AAP Council on Communications and Media.
Most people in our society use media in some form. The impact of media use depends on the type of media, the type of use, the amount and extent of use, and the characteristics of the individual child.
Benefits of media use include:
Exposure to new ideas and knowledge acquisition
Increased opportunities for social contact and support
New opportunities to access health-promotion messages and information
Risks of media use include:
Negative health effects on weight and sleep
Exposure to inaccurate, inappropriate, or unsafe content and contacts
Compromised privacy and confidentiality.
The prevalence of problematic Internet use among children and adolescents is between 4% and 8%, and up to 8.5% of US youth 8 to 18 years of age meet criteria for Internet gaming disorder. Also, the exposure of adolescents through media to alcohol, tobacco use, or sexual behaviors is associated with earlier initiation of these behaviors. Parents can be also distracted by media and miss important opportunities for emotional connections that are known to improve child health. Parents face challenges in monitoring their children’s and their own media use and in serving as positive role models.
In this new era, evidence regarding healthy media use does not support a one-size-fits-all approach, so parents must develop personalized media use plans for their children that take into account to each child’s age, health, temperament, and developmental stage. Research evidence shows that children and teenagers need adequate sleep, physical activity, and time away from media. The following guidelines from the AAP are intended for children ages 5-18:
- Develop, consistently follow, and routinely revisit a Family Media Use plan (see the plan from the American Academy of Pediatrics at www.HealthyChildren.org/MediaUsePlan).
- Address what type of and how much media are used and what media behaviors are appropriate for each child or teenager, and for parents. Place consistent limits on hours per day of media use as well as types of media used.
- Promote that children and adolescents get the recommended amount of daily physical activity (1 hour) and adequate sleep (8–12 hours, depending on age).
- Recommend that children not sleep with devices in their bedrooms, including TVs, computers, and smartphones. Avoid exposure to devices or screens for 1 hour before bedtime.
- Discourage entertainment media while doing homework.
- Designate media-free times together (eg, family dinner) and media-free locations (eg, bedrooms) in homes. Promote activities that are likely to facilitate development and health, including positive parenting activities, such as reading, teaching, talking, and playing together.
- Communicate guidelines to other caregivers, such as babysitters or grandparents, so that media rules are followed consistently.
- Engage in selecting and co-viewing media with your child, through which your child can use media to learn and be creative, and share these experiences with your family and your community.
- Have ongoing communication with children about online citizenship and safety, including treating others with respect online and offline, avoiding cyberbullying and sexting, being wary of online solicitation, and avoiding communications that can compromise personal privacy and safety.
- Actively develop a network of trusted adults (eg, aunts, uncles, coaches, etc) who can engage with children through social media and to whom children can turn when they encounter challenges.