AAP Says Interactive Screentime for Kids Can Be Healthy

by: Angela Tague
Don't take away that tablet. It can help kids learn!

Photo Source: Flickr/ Bane Bane

From tablets at home to laptops at school, kids use technology daily. But, just how much screentime for kids is healthy? The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) invited professionals from the social sciences, neuroscience, media, education, and pediatrics industries to discuss the use of electronic devices among children at the May 2015 Growing Up Digital: Media Research Symposium in Illinois.

Screen Time Helps Kids Learn
The event focused on three key areas: Education and early learning, health and developmental impact, and societal impact and digital citizenship. Screentime wasn't looked at as a lump sum; instead, it was classified in terms of consumption, creation, and communication. Participants agreed that it's important to understand specifically what type of content our children are absorbing or creating.

Here are a few interesting facts and guidelines gleaned from the conference:

Girl Using Tablet

Photo Source: Flickr / Gordon

Using Electronic Devices Effectively
Very young children need two-way interaction to promote learning. For example, when you give your kids a tablet to play with, opt for a video chat via Skype or Facetime with a relative, or choose an interactive game that personally addresses the child by name in a conversational tone.

When possible, get involved directly! Co-participate with your child while they are using the device. Work on puzzles together, or browse family photos and talk about who you see in the images.

The AAP guidelines regarding screen time for kids also recommend parents and caregivers model responsible usage of electronic devices for their children, including setting boundaries for when and where they are used. For example, follow a no-devices rule at the dinner table to encourage your family to socialize with one another in person while eating.

Bottom line: Discourage passive activities, such as watching movies or scrolling through social media feeds, on electronic devices if you want your child to have a positive, educational experience with the tools.

  • Children under 12 months of age are more effective learners from live presentation than video.
  • Children ages 12-24 months can learn from videos on digital devices, but live presentations are still superior.
  • Children ages 18-30 months are more effectively educated by caregivers and parents through personal interactions than by digital devices.
  • Children ages 24-30 months can to learn words via video chat on electronic devices.
  • Children over age two can effectively use electronic devices as learning tools. Researchers noted children improved their ability to follow directions, solve problems, and build self control when using devices.
  • Screen usage should be avoided for all ages at bedtime and during the night, since it can disrupt melatonin production and affect sleep quality.

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