Dr. Marjorie Hogan, pediatrician at Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC), is one of the thousands of members of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) who is concerned about the amount of time kids are spending on the phone, watching TV, and playing video games.
Excessive media use has been associated with obesity, lack of sleep, school problems, aggression and other behavior issues. A recent study shows that the average 8- to 10-year-old spends nearly 8 hours a day with different media, and older children and teens spend more than 11 hours per day. Kids who have a TV in their bedroom spend more time with media. About 75 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds own cell phones, and nearly all teenagers use text messaging.
“This new technology is very interesting and exciting, but it shouldn’t replace healthy activities,” explains Dr. Hogan. “Sleep, for example, is so important to growing children. But many kids are keeping their cell phones next to them while they are in bed so that they don’t miss a text or a Facebook post. These things can wait until morning — after they’ve gotten a good night’s sleep.”
Dr. Hogan was one of the co-authors of the AAP policy entitled “Children, Adolescents and the Media,” which explains the importance of having a healthy “media diet.”
“A healthy approach to children’s media use should both minimize potential health risks and foster appropriate and positive media use—in other words, it should promote a healthy ‘media diet’,” said Dr. Hogan. “Parents, educators and pediatricians should participate in media education, which means teaching children and adolescents how to make good choices in their media consumption.”
While media by itself is not the leading cause of any health problem in the U.S., it can contribute to numerous health risks. At the same time, kids can learn many positive things from pro-social media.
The AAP policy statement offers recommendations for parents:
- Parents can model effective “media diets” to help their children learn to be selective and healthy in what they consume. Take an active role in children’s media education by co-viewing programs with them and discussing values.
- Make a media use plan, including mealtime and bedtime curfews for media devices. Screens should be kept out of kids’ bedrooms.
- Limit entertainment screen time to less than one or two hours per day; in children under 2, discourage screen media exposure.
Dr. Hogan also recommends that parents monitor what their children are communicating on their social media sites. “And if you have a concern, talk to your child about it and explain what your family’s boundaries — and values — are when it comes to sharing information,” said Dr. Hogan.
More information for parents on creating a family media use plan is available on HealthyChildren.org.
To see Dr. Hogan’s statements on creating a media use plan, go to http://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/aap-press-room-media-center/Pages/Family-Media-Use-Plan.aspx