You’ve probably seen the new guidelines that the American Academy of Pediatrics recently published on how much time kids should be spending in front of screens on a daily basis.
It’s something that has garnered a lot of attention in the news. The headlines are all over the place on this. Depending on the site you visit, you may have a wildly different reaction to what the new guidance actually says.
CNN used New Screen Time Rules for Kids, by Doctors. This is pretty straightforward, no nonsense. What it is, and who said it.
The WSJ used Banning Tablets is Best for Children. The subheadline follows: “Latest guidelines recommend just one hour of screen time a day of ‘high quality programming.'”… This is pretty confusing. So, should we ban tablets or shoot for one hour a day?
Gizmodo used We Were Wrong About Limiting Children’s Screen Time. This is kind of foreboding. How were we wrong? Are our kids brains already mush? Is it too late for our kids?
So, what did the AAP actually say?
They set the stage by saying that kids today spend an average of seven hours a day on electronic entertainment in front of the tv, computers, phones and other electronic devices. This is a crazy amount of time! If a kid is at school from 8 until 3 and getting entertained by technology for the rest of the day, that doesn’t leave a lot of time for interacting with family, running around outside, or doing things like sports. The whole seven hour thing is something they think parents need to change.
How do parents do that, you ask? Well, they suggested that parents come up with a media use plan for their kids. If you have no idea what this means, that’s ok. The AAP provides tools to help families make their own digital media plan. They have two different tools. One tool focuses on creating a family media plan. The other tool is a media use calculator.
The media plan is divided up into nine different categories for each child. The categories are screen free zones, screen free times, device curfews, choose and diversify your media, balancing online and offline options, manners matter, digital citizenship, safety first, and sleep and exercise.
This is the Safety First section of the plan that I can work on for my three fake kids–Bill, Billy, and William. It provides age-appropriate suggestions for each age group, like “no texting and driving” for the 13-18 year-old and gives you the option to add your own guidelines. The AAP encourages you to return to this cite often throughout the year to reassess how your plan is doing and making adjustments for different times through the week like weekends and holidays.
The calculator allows you to see how much time your child should have for electronic entertainment after doing everything else he or she needs to do throughout the day. It helps parents prioritize things for their kids like getting a good night’s sleep and physical activity. These are the two default activities that have a period of time set off when you open the calculator. Screen time also starts with an initial period of time set off, but its time decreases as you increase other areas. Then it includes suggestions of things that kids should be doing each day like reading, going to school, and spending time with family. Here’s an example of what I was able to create for my imaginary 6-12 year-old “Bill.”
As you can see, the way that I have prioritized everything for my hypothetical child leaves him with only 30 minutes of screen time each day. (As a nerdy aside, I was recently reading Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book about Abraham Lincoln, Team of Rivals. William H. Seward, one of the Republican candidates running against Abraham Lincoln for the presidential nomination, studied as a kid from 5 A.M. until 9 P.M. every day. This set the stage for his success as a governor, U.S. senator, and the U.S. Secretary of State. On the other hand, Lincoln did not have a lot of formal schooling. He obtained much of his education from books. He was always reading. Goodwin’s book is amazing. I highly recommend it. Aside over.)
Do you use tools like these? Have you found them to be effective?