Screen time is becoming a mainstream term describing time spent in front of technology screens. The problem is, in the era of iPads & smartphones, “screen time” has become just “time” as we are constantly surrounded by mobile technology. With this, parents are now asking themselves: How can I expose my children to all these screens in a healthy way?
Even pediatricians aren’t in agreement about how much screen time should be allowed or how to promote healthy exposure. Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics announced they are revising guidelines for screen time and media use of children. For over 15 years, pediatricians have recommended children under the age of 2 completely avoid screen time, and limit it to no more than two hours per day for children older than 2. But they’ve recognized the world is changing – therefore guidelines should also evolve. The Academy of Pediatrics is planning to release new guidelines this year, which should be more flexible with setting time limits.
The main question today about balancing screen time isn’t the quantity of exposure, rather the quality. Chair of the APP committee Dr. Ari Brown defends, “there’s a big difference between endless hours watching cartoons on YouTube and video chatting with grandma.”
The key to balancing your children’s screen time is to first understand what your children are doing while using mobile devices. Previously when kids and teens only screen exposure was TV, parents could easily see what they were watching by simply walking through the room. Now they are immersed in a world with small, personal screens and it’s much more difficult to have the same understanding and control parents had before. What are they watching online? Which apps do they download and access often? Is what they’re doing appropriate for them?
Parental control apps can help answer those questions, especially if the app includes features showing usage analytics. With this, parents finally have the insight to understand what their children are doing and evaluate the quality of screen time. If your children are primarily using educational apps, why stop them? If they’re developing important 21st century skills, why limit the screen time?
The important thing is for parents to jump in and guide their children to quality screen time with mobile technology.