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New guidelines tell parents something they already knew: it's OK to let small children watch a bit of telly

By Megan Rose

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has modified its controversial guidance on screen time for children under the age of two.

The US organisation previously stated that children should have no screen time whatsoever before reaching the age of two. It also recommended that older children should receive no more than two hours a day. That guidance has been used by commentators over here to back up warnings to parents that they could be harming children by exposing them to tech at too early an age.

The new guidelines now state that children aged over 18 months should be able to use video chat, such as Skype, to communicate with their family members. Watching ‘high quality’ television programmes with parents is also now fine for children aged 18-months to five-years-old. Two-to-five-year-olds can now be allowed up to one hour of screen time a day.

The recommendations encourage parents to take ownership of their children’s use of media and to be ‘proactive’ in discussing it with them.

Parents, the group suggests, should take on the role of ‘media mentors’ to show their children the best ways of using technology . This should be to ‘create, connect and learn’ according to Jenny Radesky, the lead author of the AAP’s Media and Young Minds report. Creating ‘media free’ zones for children over the age of five at home is also suggested.

To help achieve this, the guidelines advise that parents create a personalised Family Media Plan in order to establish positive tech use with their children at home. An interactive tool is provided in order to support parents with creating this.

Professor Sonia Livingstone, from the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics, praised the new guidelines for fitting ‘much better with present circumstances of family lives.’

Despite this, she said the guidelines are too prescriptive for parents, who should instead aim to ‘enjoy lively, confident and pleasurable time with their children, whether or not there’s a screen involved.’

Image: CC BY 2.0