Frank in therapy

Screen Time Recommendations for Kids

By: Jessica Drake-Simmons, M.S. CCC-SLP

Technology is an increasingly present and necessary tool in every aspect of our lives.  Yet, the use of screens has been discouraged for children, especially young children.  Until recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended avoiding screen time for children under the age of 2 and limiting screen time to less than 2 hours for children over the age of 2.  It is clear that these are unobtainable standards for many American families as the average child is spending seven hours a day in front of entertainment media.

The American Academy of Pediatrics established these strict guidelines due to research that has shown media can lead to difficulties with attention, school, sleep and obesity.  What is now being acknowledged are the many variables related to the quality of screen time a child is exposed to.  Screen time comes in three forms:

  • Consumption- passively watching a TV show

consumption

  • Creation- researching a topic, creating a presentation

creation

  • Communication- Facetime with Grandma, writing a text message

communication

Screen time for the purpose of creation and communication is typically a beneficial activity.  Screen time for the purpose of passive consumption is what needs to be more closely monitored, as it does not activate a young child’s brain the way that real interaction with another person does.  Children learn most efficiently from back and forth communication, interaction in the real world and hands on play.  However, the screen can be a platform to promote back and forth interaction between a caregiver and child.

Research is clear on what to AVOID:

  1. Background TV– leads to decreased parent-child interaction, poorer play and decreased executive functioning ability
  2. Fast paced screens– temporarily impairs young children’s executive functioning skills
  3. Media before bed– the effect of the neurologically stimulating screen can make it difficult for children to go to sleep

The American Academy of Pediatrics is changing their recommendations for screen time and the complete guidelines will be released in 2016 here.

Learn more about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley at EasterSealsDFVR.org.

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