*No screen time for children from zero to eighteen months. An exception for the recommendation may be video conversations with grandparents and family.
*Starting from eighteen months to two years parents willing to introduce digital technology may introduce well selected high-quality programming and apps as an interactive family activity.
*For children between ages two to five years old, an hour daily maximum is recommended. For children five and above maximum of two hours a day screen time is recommended.
*Is my child physically healthy and sleeping enough?
*Is my child connecting socially with family and friends (in any form)?
*Is my child engaged with and achieving in school?
*Is my child pursuing interests and hobbies (in any form)?
*Is my child having fun and learning in their use of digital media?
If answers to all these questions are yes then you won’t need to worry about screen time. If it is not, then you might need to reflect on media usage for your family.
*Be the Role Model: Children learn by observation and seventy percent of today’s children feel their parents are on their screens too much. So, family time should be for connecting with your own children and not your devices. Be an active, involved, alert and mindful decision maker for your children and the media content used by them.
*Prioritize the activities: As a family, discuss and list down all the non-negotiable activities vs. desirable activities. Fill a daily calendar with non-negotiable activities such as school time, meal times, bedtimes, outdoor play time, extra curricular activities and homework time first. Then you can allocate a certain amount of screen time for free time, keeping in the recommended guidelines by AAP.
*Teach technology etiquette: Technology etiquette must always be focused on respect, human interaction and courtesy. Simple suggestions such as while with family members, talk to the person sitting next to you and not to the person on the other side of the screen. Not taking their tablets during outdoor activity time go a long way.
*Set firm and practical media rules: Keep computers and laptops out of children’s bedroom and keep them in a family area. Being in an open family environment discourages the children to make irresponsible choices of media use and at the same time allows you to monitor content.
*Ask for help: Encourage use of age appropriate use of media. Nonprofit organizations such as Common Sense Media and thinkuknow provide multiple resources for parents and educators. Check with your child’s school if they are having regular Digital Citizenship lessons. If not, insist on these lessons or even better start an initiative in your own community. Also, if you wish, multiple family oriented media filters and apps are available to monitor content and time a device is connected to the internet.
In a nutshell, treat screen time as a way to encourage age-appropriate critical thinking and digital literacy to children. These are essential 21st century life skills which require open family communication and implementation of consistent rules about media use.
AAP Recommendations for Children’s Media Use
Common Sense Media
Common Sense Ambassador