We’re all familiar with the stereotype. “Lazy” kids attached to TVs, tablets and smartphones instead of frolicking in the sunshine. Worse yet? Their “lazy” parents who allow them to be constantly attached to their devices rather than actively parenting. It turns out that this stereotype might not be completely true. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is changing its mind about how screen time can actually benefit children’s developing minds.
One of the key differences between healthy and unhealthy screen time is “co-engagement”, which means that parents get involved and stay in control of when and how children use their devices. By making screen time into “together time”, children can have more positive outcomes. Parents should lay the rules when, where and how devices are used and consider establishing “screen-free zones” like the dinner table and the bed to as not to interfere with meal and sleep times.
Here are a few takeaways from the AAP study, (which can be accessed in its entirety here for $25.00).
- “Media is just another environment.”
Virtual settings allow children to do the same things they always have, just in a different way. Like any environment, media can have either positive or negative effects depending on how it’s used.
- “Parenting has not changed.”
The same parenting rules apply to virtual environments as they do real-life ones. Play alongside your kids, be engaged and set limits. Teach them empathy and kindness. Know who they’re talking to in real life and virtually.
- “Content Matters”
The quality of content matters more than the platform on which its presented. It’s more important to prioritize how your child spends his or her screen time rather than setting hard and fast limits on the amount of time.
This study is still in progress and the AAP plans to release updates to their existing policy recommendations based on their findings in October 2016.