How Much Should You Limit Your Kids' Electronics?

The American Academy of Pediatrics' Screen Time Guidelines

Let your child use digital devices, but only in moderation.
Donald Iain Smith Premiu / Moment / Getty Images

For years, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended no more than two hours of screen time for children and teenagers, and absolutely no screen time for children under 2. However, they’ve now updated their guidelines to reflect the realities of today’s digital world.

The AAP's new recommendations acknowledge how technology is integrated into our daily lives, making it nearly impossible to police a strict two-hour per day limit on school-age children. Children access computers and tablets at school and use computers to do their homework.

Many children use social media to communicate with their friends and they keep smartphones in their pockets all day. Others play video games and watch TV as their main forms of entertainment.

What Makes the New Guidelines Different

The new AAP guidelines acknowledge how big of a role technology plays in the lives of today's kids. While past guidelines offered clear recommendations about the amount of time children should be allowed to access screens, the AAP’s new guidelines offer a more flexible approach.

Parents are encouraged to allow screen time in moderation, but there isn't a strict recommendation about the number of hours kids should be allowed to use digital devices. Here’s what you need to know about the AAP’s new guidelines:

  • Media has both pros and cons. Just like everything else, technology has pros and cons. Kids can learn a lot from educational content, but they can also be exposed to inappropriate images and unhealthy advertisements. Take steps to make your child’s media use a positive experience.
  • Healthy role modeling is essential. Your child will likely mimic your media use so it’s essential to be a good role model. Read books, engage in physical activity, and spend time outdoors. Set healthy limits on your own electronics use.
  • Kids need rules about technology. Establish rules about the Internet sites your child visits, the games he plays, and the movies he watches. 
  • Engage with your child’s technology. Get involved in your child’s digital world. Learn how to play the games your child enjoys and explore the Internet together. Look for positive activities you can do together with electronics.
  • Set aside time without technology. Turn off your electronics during certain times of the day or on specific days of the week. It’s important for kids to have time to engage in activities that don’t involve their digital devices.
  • Establish reasonable limits on screen time. Most kids can’t handle unlimited access to their electronics. To keep your child physically and mentally healthy, set limits on screen time. Don’t let your child sit in front of the TV all day every Saturday and don’t allow him to stay up all night playing video games.
  • Turn media mistakes into teachable moments.  Monitor your child’s activity and be prepared for your child to make mistakes sometimes. Whether he logs onto an inappropriate website, or he goes over the data limit on his smartphone, turn those mistakes into teachable moments so your child can do better next time.
  • It’s OK for teens to be online. Social media is a major part of most teen’s lives. Let your teenager spend time online communicating with other people. It’s likely that online communication will play an even bigger role in your teen’s future career. 
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