Where childhood days once consisted of riding bikes, shooting hoops, playing catch and letting one’s imagination wander in the great outdoors, more of today’s youth prefer the artificial glow of electronics to the natural radiance of the sun.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the average eight-year-old spends about eight hours each day using various forms of media, while teenagers frequently surpass 11 hours of media consumption daily. Research has also found that more than three quarters of teenagers have their own cellphones, and the average 13- to 17-year-old sends over 3,300 texts per month. Childhood, as we once knew it, appears to be over.
With these jarring statistics and the long-observed correlation between high media consumption and poor health outcomes in mind, the AAP recently issued a set of guidelines suggesting parents limit their children’s screen time to a maximum of two hours daily, as well as ban televisions and Internet access in kids’ bedrooms. In addition to restricting screen time—which includes TV, the Internet and smart devices—the AAP recommends parents define clear rules and curfews for media use and actively monitor their children’s media consumption. The AAP issued even stricter guidelines for younger children, recommending no screen time at all for ages two and under.
Though the new guidelines could mean significant adjustments for some households, early education experts say they present an opportunity for families to learn to navigate media together while allowing parents to model healthy behaviors. For more information and tips on creating a family media plan, visit aap.org or healthychildren.org. iBi