The New Rules for Limiting Children's Screentime

Dacy Knight

It turns out that everything we've been taught about managing children's screentime could be wrong. The American Academy of Pediatrics released a new set of rules this week for managing children's digital media exposure, and the major update is full of surprising changes.

In the new recommendations for 2017, the AAP overhauled a lot of its previously established notions, doing away with the less-is-more model that recommended strict cutoffs when it came to screentime. The new strategy implements a more nuanced approached, recognizing the differences in quality of media use and that not all screentime is misspent.

Before, the rules were quite simple: no more than two hours of screentime for children over the age of 2 years old (for anyone younger, it was advised to avoid screentime completely). The new guidelines consider age groups and recognize the positives of digital media use. For infants 18 months and younger, screens should still be avoided as much as possible, as evidence for the benefits of media at this age is still limited.

For young children, any media use should be limited to "high-quality programming" that's age-appropriate and educational (for example, Sesame Street can improve "cognitive, literacy, and social outcomes for children 3 to 5 years of age"). As children get older, parents are advised to continue monitoring their kids' media use, limiting the time spent engaging in entertainment media but being encouraging of screentime that facilitates learning and completing homework.

The AAP underscores that digital time should never replace healthy activities like face-to-face social interaction or sleep. As the media landscape changes, it's important to assess screentime on a case-by-case basis and keep in mind it's a tool to improve the quality of real life, not compete with it.

Surprised by this new set of rules? How do you manage your children's screentime? Share your insight with us in the comments.

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