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How much screen time is the right balance for my child?

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Family all on computer screens

In this article, you’ll find answers to questions like:

1. What do national experts recommend?
2. What are some tips?
3. Who can give local advice?

We’ve all seen it. A toddler – just learning her shapes and colors – logs into a smartphone, taps the app icon that plays her favorite tunes and claps along with joy.

Is this a good thing, or a bad thing?

It depends, experts say.

1. WHAT DO NATIONAL EXPERTS RECOMMEND?

Recognizing the struggle many parents have managing their children’s screen time, the American Academy of Pediatrics released two policy statements: "Media and Young Minds" involving preschool ages and "Media Use in School-Age Children and Adolescents." The academy urges parents to be their children's "media mentor" and teach them how to use the devices to create, connect and learn.

Palm Beach Circuit Court Judge James Martz, who previously served in the juvenile division and was on the board for Children's Services Council of Palm Beach County, agrees.

"A digital screen is not a litmus test for a child's thoughts," he says. "A parent and child conversation is so much more enlightening as to where a child's head is at."

2. WHAT ARE SOME TIPS?

There’s no escaping our digital world, so here is advice from the pediatrics academy to help guide you:

  1. For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting. Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming and watch it with their children to help them understand it.
  2. With very young children, stick to unstructured play and human interaction instead of screen time. The opportunity to think creatively, solve problems and develop reasoning and motor skills is more valuable for their rapidly developing brain than passive media intake.
  3. For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to one hour a day of high-quality programs. Parents should watch media with children to help them understand it and apply it to the world around them.
  4. The internet can be a wonderful place for learning — or trouble. Keep the computer and other screens in a common area of your home so you can monitor your kids online and how much time they are spending.
  5. Look for media choices that are educational, teach good values such as empathy, racial and ethnic tolerance, and that model good interpersonal skills for children to emulate.
  6. For children ages 6 and older, place consistent limits on media time as well as the types of media, and make sure media does not replace adequate sleep, physical activity and other healthy behaviors.
  7. Become familiar with popular social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. Even better, create your own profiles so you can "friend" your kids and monitor their online presence.  
  8. Designate media-free times together, such as dinner or driving, as well as media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms.
  9. Initiate discussions about online citizenship and safety, including treating others with respect online and offline.

3. WHO CAN GIVE LOCAL ADVICE?

Triple P, the Positive Parenting Program funded locally in Palm Beach County by Children’s Services Council, helps parents find the right balance with age-appropriate screen time. To learn more about Triple P, call:

SOURCES:

• Judge James Martz, Fifteenth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida
American Academy of Pediatrics
Common Sense Media

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