Q: What Can I Tell Parents About Screen Time?

May 19, 2021
Q: What Can I Tell Parents About Screen Time?

This week’s tip comes from a question asked by one of our readers. Check out the answer below!

Q: There is a lot of information out there about the effect of screen time on children – what can I tell families?

A: When making recommendations about screen time, it is important to consider the age of the child. Keep in mind that recommendations will need to be modified based on a family’s particular circumstances. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that:

  • From birth-18 months: Avoid all screen media other than video chatting.
  • From 18 months-24 months: If parents wish to introduce digital media, select high-quality programming/apps and use media together with children.
  • From 2-5 years: Limit screen use to one hour a day of high-quality programming, and co-view with children.

The research suggests that there are both concerns and benefits related to screen time, depending on how it is used.

Concerns:
Research demonstrates background television is associated with decreased parent-child interaction [12]. Try to encourage parents to keep it interactive. Caregivers can ask children questions about what they watched, label objects on the screen, describe what is happening, or talk about the storyline.

Screen time has also been associated with obesity “due to an increase in food intake, a reduction in physical activity, and exposure to poor quality food and advertising [3].” You can encourage families to make screen time physical by taking body breaks, playing games that require movement, having the child complete tasks during commercial breaks, and breaking up screen time into small segments of time.

Benefits:
High-quality programming can actually have benefits for children. Children’s educational programming that actively elicits a child’s participation has “been found to encourage expressive language production and vocabulary,” and parental engagement during viewing educational programming has shown a positive effect on children’s language development [45]. If a family chooses to use digital media, you can encourage them to select media that keeps children engaged and actively involved and is both meaningful and social, using Zero to Three’s E-AIMS model.