Why I Wish The AAP Was Stricter On Screen Time

As a parent, I wish the AAP was still as strict as it used to be about regulating kids' screen time, but here's how I'm working with it. 


For years the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has taken a hard line on screen time. Until September 28, 2015, they recommended two hours a day for older children, and for kids under two, no screen time at all. Recently, they've softened. The new AAP guidelines, Beyond "Turn It Off," How To Advise Families On Media Use, suggest that we stop fearing media and instead get involved in what our kids are doing online. (The complete list of guidelines can be found here.)


As a parent, I liked it when they were strict.


When I used to tell my kids to stop binge watching “Kipper The Dog” and they whined and asked why, I had the AAP for back up. “Because a national organization of children's doctors says so!”


Now screens are everywhere. For entertainment, for learning, at home, at school. Recently, I watched “Seinfeld” on a screen at the gas station terminal while pumping gas. According to the Pew Research Center’s Teens, Social Media & Technology Overview 201575 percent of kids ages 12 to 17 have smartphones, mine included.


The AAP recognized that simply putting a limit on screen time was no longer appropriate. “In a world where ‘screen time’ is becoming simply ‘time’ our policies must evolve,” the AAP told Time magazine. They would need to be more nuanced.


Media is just another environment where "kids do what they have always done, only virtually," says the AAP. Of course! I discovered this when I was accidentally included in a group text with my son and his friends, the extent of which was, "Bro?" "What, bro?" It was no different from they way they talked in the real world, but it was happening on their phones.


Teachers, talk about these new guidelines with your students. Ask them why they think the AAP changed the guidelines and if they agree with the more relaxed recommendations. Have them read Managing Media, We Need A Plan and watch the TED talk Media and Children. 


Parent bonus! Have "the talk" about how you plan to use media as a family. These four new guidelines, paraphrased from the AAP, are my new touchstones:

-You are the role model, set limits, limit your on media use.

-Content matters. "The quality of content is more important than the platform or time spent with media. Prioritize how your child spends his/her time rather than just setting a timer."

-Be engaged with your kids when they are using technology. "Co-viewing is essential."

-It's okay for your teen to be online. "Online relationships are integral to adolescent development. Teach teens appropriate behaviors that apply in both the real and online worlds."

I've started putting my smartphone in a drawer when the kids come home so I won't be tempted. Now I ask, "So, who's up for a critical analysis of Instagram? I want to learn about your online worlds!” I’m sure my kids wish I would just ask them how their day was.