Screen Time Gets a Time Out, Again

The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends children should stare at screens for no more than two hours a days according to guidelines just published in Pediatrics. The new policy focuses not just on television but new media viewed on computers, smart phones, tablets and other devices imperiling our youth. 

On your mark, get set, subtract five minutes from your allotted screen time to read about the two hour recommendation....

Actually the AAP would prefer kids have much less screen time but settled on "less than one to two hours per day." They would have said zero but they didn't want to look like boobs again. A few years back they got lots of flack for the lack of evidence behind their no tv for kids under two recommendation so they revised it to "discouraging" screen time instead of an outright ban. So this time around they brought some evidence:  
According to a recent study, the average 8- to 10-year-old spends nearly 8 hours a day with a variety of different media, and older children and teenagers spend 11 hours per day. Presence of a television (TV) set in a child’s bedroom increases these figures even more, and 71% of children and teenagers report having a TV in their bedroom. Young people now spend more time with media than they do in school—it is the leading activity for children and teenagers other than sleeping. 
8 hours a day? 11 hours? 

The estimates come from a 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation national survey of 2,002 third- to twelfth-graders. The figures sound extreme but I'm not here to argue kids don't get enough screen time. Indeed I fight the fight in my house, car, yard, etc. 

In fact, the AAP and I can agree there's a problem: 
Despite all of this media time and new technology, many parents seem to have few rules about use of media by their children and adolescents. In a recent study, two-thirds of children and teenagers report that their parents have “no rules” about time spent with media.
My own research confirms two-thirds of parents who do have rules either don't enforce them or can't remember them. The other third report frequent migraines. 

To my friends and neighbors who don't check their kids' emails, texts or Instagram: 
One study found that 20% of adolescents either sent or received a sexually explicit image by cell phone or Internet.
That doesn't include sexually explicits photos that never get sent. 

Or the subtly sexual ones.  

Or the please-like-me ones. 

Or the please-pay-attention-to-me ones. 

In other words the ones that worry at least some of us parents. 

I take no pleasure deciding whether to call the woman I barely know about the embarassing photos her tween plastered online. Is it just me or does her daughter seem desperate? 

So I understand the concerns of the American Academy of Pedatrics. Sometimes we've not seen eye to eye, my dear pediatric authorities, but I get it. The long hours on Youtube, the iPad, the Wii. Much of it untended. The bullying, the sex, the violence, the unattainable beauty standards, the consumerism, the cult of celebrity, the Khan Academy.

I get it. But I have one question.  

Why two hours? 

Despite all the cited studies in the new policy, the purveyors of parenting advice forgot this rather important detail. I have no idea why they settled on two hours of screen time, max. 

I can't believe the AAP expects me to to take time out from monitoring my family's screen time to check out that number. It's the finals of Bloggers-Idol right now and I couldn't possibly drag myself away to read a few journal articles.

Go ahead read the policy statement, it's free online but it will cost you ten minutes of screen time. I'm counting.

COUNCIL ON COMMUNICATIONS AND MEDIA Pediatrics; originally published online October 28, 2013; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2013-2656  

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