Recently, a Microsoft study of parents showed that the average parent lets their child use the computer on their own at age 8, while holding off until 11 or 12 to allow social networking. But there was one important question the study didn’t answer: When is it definitely too early for a child to use technology?
This week, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) weighed in on the subject. According to the group’s Council on Communications and Media, parents are officially recommended to “discourage screen media exposure” for children under 2.
The main issue for pediatricians isn’t eye strain associated with electronic devices, nor tablet computers’ negative effect on kids’ vocabulary, though certainly both are concerns. Says the AAP, “excessive media use has been associated with obesity, lack of sleep, school problems, aggression and other behavior issues.”
The group notes that by age 8, the average child gets 8 hours of screen time per day – time that could be better spent staying active. Instead, the AAP recommends limiting “entertainment screen time to less than one or two hours per day.” The AAP further recommends making a “media use plan,” which includes setting tech curfews and keeping TVs and computers out of kids’ bedrooms. It also encourages parents to take an active role in helping their kids be more selective about what they watch, sharing screen time, and having discussions with them about the content they’re consuming.
If you’d like more information about creating a media use plan, HealthyChildren.org has excellent resources for parents. You may also want to check out Techlicious’s guide to keeping your kids safe while using technology.