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Why the American Academy of Pediatrics May Allow Screen Time for Babies

Oct 12, 2015
TIME Health
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The American Academy of Pediatrics is reconsidering its digital exposure guidelines for children for the first time in more than 15 years.

"In a world where ‘screen time’ is becoming simply ‘time,’ our policies must evolve or become obsolete," the AAP’s media committee wrote in a post on the group's website accompanying a report.

The authors of the post acknowledge that much has changed in the past few years and that their blanket "no screens" policy for children below 2 might not be valid any more. "Case in point: The 2011 AAP policy statement Media Use by Children Younger Than Two Years was drafted prior to the first generation iPad and explosion of apps aimed at young children," the academy wrote in the post. In a related paper, the group goes on to call the term screen time an antiquated term.

This is a remarkable departure for the AAP, which had earlier set aside stringent limits on how much screen time children had to digital products, recommending none for toddlers under the age of 2 and a maximum of two hours per day for those kids above 2.

Today, apps on iPads are specifically created to target educational programs to tots and have been praised by educators as key to establishing everything from social habits to sparking academic development in preschool children. That said, messages have been mixed regarding the safety and usefulness of children's screen time. While a 2013 survey from Common Sense Media found that 38% of children below the age of 2 had accessed a mobile device, the AAP's media committee avoided commenting on whether 2-year-olds should use iPads in 2011, with a pediatrician saying, "We just don't have the data yet."

That said, the AAP's upcoming guidelines will be carefully constructed to reflect quality over quantity. The post emphasized that while a digital life was a fact of modern-day life, limits should be set for children and that tech-free zones should be encouraged, integrating play time.

The AAP's note expands to make one old-fashioned caveat clear. "Parenting has not changed," the authors write. "The same parenting rules apply to your children's real and virtual environments. Play with them. Set limits; kids need and expect them. Teach kindness. Be involved. Know their friends and where they are going with them."

The group hopes to release the revised guidelines in time for the start of the 2016 school year.

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