Did pediatricians just tell my kids to watch more videos?
The Doc Smitty looks at what new screen time guidelines really mean
At worst, I’m pretty sure I sound like the teacher from Charlie Brown.
At best, the mom is rolling her eyes and pulling her phone out to hand to her screaming child.
“Children under 2 years of age should have no screen time and after 2 years, we should limit screen time to 2 hours per day.”
There is the common summary statement that can be taken out of the AAP Policy Statement on Children, Adolescents and the Media.
Is this realistic?
Is this practical?
Is anyone listening to anything we say?
In May, a meeting of the best minds in the use of media in pediatrics set out to answer these questions as well as look at recent research on the use of screens in children and teenagers.
In order to get information about the meeting out quickly, AAP News released a summary of some of the thoughts that came out of the meeting.
If you read the headlines that were generated as a result of the statement, you might have heard:
“Pediatricians think all screen time is OK. Go for it!”
“Pediatricians finally admit that they were dead wrong and outdated when they said toddlers shouldn’t use screens.”
“Pediatric guidelines now changed to allow for more screen time, at earlier ages.”
Unfortunately, we don’t always get the time to fully explain our message and the media doesn’t always get it right.
Here are my takeaways from the statement that I hope better reflect the intent of the authors:
1. What you might have heard: “Pediatricians think all screen time is OK. Go for it!”
What it should have said: “We need to continue to be careful about the amount of time children are on screens. Guiding them toward quality apps and games that are more than just watching a video is important. Watching and playing alongside your children helps to enrich the experience for the family as a whole.”
2. What you might have heard: “Pediatricians finally admit that they were dead wrong and outdated when they said toddlers shouldn’t use screens.”
What it should have said: “The benefit of screen time for toddlers is an ongoing topic of research but it is clear that children continue to learn best from interacting with and talking to other humans. One of the major risk of screen time is the time take away from rich interaction with parents and other caregivers.”
3. What you might have heard: “Pediatric guidelines now changed to allow for more screen time, at earlier ages.”
What it should have said: “While this statement is not a new guideline, it does highlight the AAP commitment to following new research in regards to screen use and helping to relay that information to parents as soon as possible. As more information comes available, we will update our guidelines to reflect current studies in the context of practical media use for children.
Do continue to follow this debate because the guidelines are likely to change over time. (P.S. That’s what guidelines should do in a new and heavily researched field.)
Don’t go out and buy your 1 year old her own iPad.
Justin Smith, M.D., is a Cook Children's pediatrician in Lewisville . He attended University of Texas, Southwestern Medical School and did his pediatric training at Baylor College of Medicine. He joins Cook Children's after practicing in his hometown of Abilene for four years. He has a particular interest in development, behavior and care for children struggling with obesity. In his spare time, he enjoys playing with his 3 young children, exercising, reading and writing about parenting and pediatric health issues.