Just like children believe in the tooth fairy and Santa Claus, I have a vision that somewhere, out there, a magical, mythical mother exists. One who charts out exactly the right amount of screen-time, per child, per age, per device, sets AND enforces these limits, and yet somehow still miraculously maintains perfect family harmony. This fantasy mother never gets confused by the various and often contradicting reports on what healthy limits are, nor does she forget phones and tablets count for screen time, too. Of course, this fantasy mom also has a spotless house, pre-prepared healthy dinners, 100% PTA participation, well-behaved pets who walk themselves, and most likely that time machine Hermione used in the third Harry Potter book. So there’s that.
A brief history of my philosophy when it came to screen time:
First baby born: “I don’t have to worry about screen-time rules. We’ll read to you, and play with you, and walk around with you, and keep you entertained all the time. You won’t even want to watch TV.”
First baby turns one: “I don’t give a flying fig about screen-time rules. Will you please just watch TV so I can go pee by myself?!”
It only went downhill from there.
Now that my kids are old enough to navigate phones, laptops, and the ever-confusing TV remote(s), and they still have free range so long as they are out of my hair, I realize it’s probably time to look back into the guidelines. Okay, it’s way past time. And over the last 11 years, the guidelines have changed a lot.
The last time I checked the recommended amount was two hours per day. Even with that, I’d been a proponent of do what’s best for your kid, and for your family. If your family unwinds with a family TV show after dinner, don’t leave your kids out because they already spent two hours doing their homework on the computer.
It seems like the American Academy of Pediatrics is listening to me. FINALLY! On Oct. 2016, at a conference for 10,000 pediatricians, it was announced that, “The academy recommends that for children 2 to 5 years of age, screen time should be limited to one hour per day. For kids ages 6 and older, parents can determine the restrictions for time spent using screen, as well as monitor the types of digital media their children use.”
“It doesn’t make sense to make a blanket statement [of two hours] of screen time anymore,” said Dr. Yolanda Reid Chassiakos, lead author of the “Children and Adolescents and Digital Media Technical Report” and assistant professor at UCLA. “For some children, two hours may be too much.”
Or, for some parents, two hours might be too little!
Either way, here are some good rules of thumb:
- Prioritize productive time over entertainment time.
- Ensure school, homework time, and social time are factored in.
- Kids should get at least one hour of physical time and anywhere from eight to 12 hours of sleep.
- Designate media free times and locations, such as family dinner or bedrooms.
Four easy little guides, right? Piece of cake to follow and implement. Don’t worry, we all need a hand. Try this: Family Media Plan creator and calculator. And remember, some days you may be practically screen free and some days your child will spend the entire day on her butt watching TV. As long as the average of those two extremes is something you can live with, you are doing OK.
Cricket Media Mama was considering writing a blog about how adults … (hang on, someone texted me) … should model proper media consumption … (ohhh! I just got a new level in Pokemon Go!) … for children, but she … (Ha! I should forward this email) …. Wait, what was I saying?