As parents, it’s natural to want to do what’s best for your kids and give them everything you can. Many think giving their little ones fancy tech toys like smartphones and tablets will give them a leg-up in school. But new recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggest otherwise.
The statement says children should have no more than two hours of entertainment-based screen-time per day. Considering the average 8-year-old spends an average of eight hours in front of a screen a day, these new guidelines could spark big lifestyle changes for some families. “Many parents are clueless about how much media their kids use and what they’re seeing, both online, on TV and on movie screens,” says Victor Strasburger, the lead author of the policy.
According to the AAP, too much entertainment screen-time – defined by Strasburger as computer, TV, movies and video games – has been linked to increased violence, cyberbullying, sleeping problems and difficulties at school. “There is absolutely no evidence that earlier exposure to new technology makes kids smarter or do better in school,” says Strasburger.
Linda Morgan, parenting expert and author of “Beyond Smart: Boosting Your Child’s Social, Emotional and Academic Potential,” came to the same conclusions. “Parents need to be involved and they need to know what their kids are watching,” Morgan says. Her biggest tip is to keep TVs and computers out of kids’ bedrooms. Keeping computers and TVs in an open part of the house makes it easier to monitor what your kids are watching.
Morgan also says parents should be monitoring their children’s time on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites as well - in an age of cyberbullying, parents have every right to know their children’s log-in information and passwords. “We shouldn’t just let them run wild on these sites,” she says. “We need to be on top of it and control the time they spend on them.”
Helping your kids' academic and social well-being from a young age is easier than you may think. Morgan says reading with your kids and simply talking to them goes a long way. “It’s very old school and very, very powerful,” she says. “Talking to them about how they are feeling helps them understand their own emotions, which ultimately teaches them empathy and compassion,” she says. This helps prevent bullying and also has been linked to functioning better academically as well.