Parenting in the Digital Age

Screen Time Guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics

Parenting in the Digital Age is not easy! For all the benefits that technology brings us, we are also faced with the challenge as parents to monitor and regulate our children’s use of digital media and set parameters on screen time.

With the increasing popularity of games like Fortnite, we are also called to redouble our efforts and stay abreast of current research and recommendations for young children and their media use.

For example, it has come to our attention that boys as young as our first graders are familiar with the game, Fortnite, and several have played it. However, Common Sense Media recommends Fortnite for teens 13 and up, primarily because of the open chat and action violence. It is also rated T for Teen by the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board), meaning content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up and may contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.

Fortnite is just one popular example of current trends in online gaming. We would like to take this opportunity to share with you some general resources on good media habits and screen time.

Good Media Habits from Common Sense Media

When it comes to media and technology, kids really learn what they live. Here are some strategies for helping your whole family develop healthy media habits.

Set limits. Establish media-free zones and weekly screen-time amounts. Aim for a balance of activities throughout the week: reading, playing, exploring, and so on.

Choose age-appropriate, high-quality media. Not everything has to be PBS, but take the time to find stuff that's nourishing.

Co-view and co-play when you can. You won't be able to stop what you're doing every time your kid plays Minecraft, but make an effort to understand -- and even appreciate -- what your kids are doing. Ask questions, get them to explain stuff, and listen with an open mind.

Treat tech as a tool, not a treat. Kids who use tablets or smartphones only to play games see only the entertainment side of technology. Demonstrate the utility of devices, such as how you send email, use a map, and look up facts.

Be a family of media critics. Media-literacy skills help kids think critically about what they watch, play, and interact with. Encourage young kids to think more deeply about their shows, books, and games. Ask "Who made this?", "Who is it for?", and "What is it telling you?"

Be a media role model. Lead by example by putting your own devices away during family time.

Screen Time Guidelines

It’s important to note that most of the negative effects of screen time on children are related to excessive use of electronic devices on a daily basis. For this reason, it’s helpful to know expert’s recommendations for screen time use, which were updated by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) last year. The AAP makes the following recommendations for screen time:

  • For children under 18 months old, screen time should be limited to video chatting

  • Children 18-24 months should only be exposed to high-quality media, with parents watching alongside to help them understand and engage with what they’re watching

  • Children 2-5 years old should be limited to 1 hour per day of high-quality programming; again, parents should watch along with them to help them make real world connections

  • Children 6 years and older should have established and consistent limits on the time spent using media, with parents ensuring that digital media doesn’t take the place of sleep, physical activity or real-life personal interactions

Additional Recommendations for Healthy Media Use

  • Develop a Family Media Use Plan with specific guidelines for each child and parent.

  • Recognize the importance of hands-on, unstructured, and social play to build language, cognitive, and social-emotional skills.

  • Find quality products.

  • No screens during meals and for 1 hour before bedtime.

  • Avoid fast-paced programs (young children do not understand them as well), apps with lots of distracting content, and any violent content.

  • Turn off televisions and other devices when not in use.

  • Avoid using media as the only way to calm your child. Although there are intermittent times (eg, medical procedures, airplane flights) when media is useful as a soothing strategy, there is concern that using media as strategy to calm could lead to problems with limit setting or the inability of children to develop their own emotion regulation. Ask your pediatrician for help if needed.

  • Keep bedrooms, mealtimes, and parent–child playtimes screen free for children and parents. Parents can set a “do not disturb” option on their phones during these times.