A Balanced Media Diet: American Academy of Pediatrics Adjusts Media Use Policy for Kids

Lauren Santye, Assistant Editor
Published Online: Monday, October 31st, 2016
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) are revising their 1999 media recommendations so children as young as 15 months can gain educational value from media as long as it is high-quality programming, and parents are present and heavily involved.

These new policy recommendations and resources are designed to help families maintain a healthy “media diet,” according to an AAP press release. They also released an online, interactive tool on HealthyChildren.org to help families create a personalized Family Media Plan.

“Families should proactively think about their children’s media use and talk with children about it, because too much media use can mean that children don’t have enough time during the day to play, study, talk, or sleep,” said lead policy author Jenny Radesky, MD, FAAP. “What’s most important is that parents be their child’s ‘media mentor.’ That means teaching them how to use it as a tool to create, connect, and learn.”

The release noted that despite these adjustments, it’s still crucial that parents engage their children unplugged playtime, making it a priority.

Although some media does have educational value for children starting at 18-months-old, the AAP notes that content should be of the highest quality. The academy particularly favors PBS and Sesame Workshop as makers of evidence-based children’s educational media, compared with the hundreds of apps that boast education, according to NPR.

“Parents play an important role in helping children and teens navigate media, which can have both positive and negative effects,” said lead policy author Megan Moreno, MD, MSEd, MPH, FAAP. “Parents can set expectations and boundaries to make sure their children’s media experience is a positive one. The key is mindful use of media within a family.”

The new AAP policy recommendations address children younger than 18-months-old, 18- to 24-months, 2- to 5-years-old, and children age 6 and older. 

For children younger than 18 months, the AAP recommends that they should still avoid all screen time, other than video-chatting. Parents of children 18- to 24-months-old can introduce digital media, as long as it’s high-quality programming, and they are watching it with their child to help them better understand what they’re watching.

Children age 6 and older should have consistent time limits set in place for media use and types of media to make sure that it does not replace physical activity, adequate sleep, etc. Additionally, the AAP recommends that parents have continual communication regarding online safety and bullying.

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