Navigating technology with your child

Rose Green-Flores
Special to the Lake Sun, USA TODAY NETWORK
For children older than five, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents develop personalized media plans that include screen-free zones and device curfews.

Today’s children are surrounded by electronic devices. With TVs, tablets, computers and smart phones, the average American household has five to 10 screens in the home.

“Technology has transformed our lives and these devices offer a lot of potential, but it is all about finding the right balance, “said Pediatrician Shari Neill, M.D., who cares for patients at Lake Regional Clinic – Camdenton. “For small children, it is important to consider how technology can impact critical brain development, and as children grow, parents should help them adopt healthy behaviors around technology.”

Pediatrician Shari Neill, M.D.

Screen Time Recommendations for Young Children

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children younger than 18 months use screen media only for video chatting. Children 18 to 24 months should use only high-quality programming/apps and only with an adult, not on their own. Children older than 2 years should use screens no more than 1 hour per day, again focusing on high-quality programming that parents co-view with their children.

The AAP advises that well-designed programming and apps, such as “Sesame Street,” can have cognitive and literacy benefits, but not all “educational” media geared towards young children have been vetted by educators or developmental specialists.

“Many of the higher-order thinking skills children need for school are best taught through parent-child interactions and unstructured play,” Dr. Neill said. “That said, if you want to introduce digital media to your child, commonsensemedia.org is a nonprofit organization that provides reviews and advice on media and technology for kids of all ages.”

Screens and School-Aged Children

For children older than five, the AAP recommends parents develop personalized media plans that include screen-free zones and device curfews.

“With older children, time recommendations aren’t as clear-cut,” Dr. Neill said. “It is more about making sure they also get at least one hour of physical activity per day, eight to 12 hours of adequate sleep, and just general time away from media. Turn off the tech at least an hour before bedtime because stimulating content and the blue light from screens can interfere with their sleep.”

Watch age-appropriate media alongside your children so that you can have active discussions about the content. If you allow your teen to be on social media, have a conversation about public versus private information, and make sure their privacy settings are activated. Experts recommend parents set up their own social media profiles so they can help their children navigate these applications safely.

“Friending or following your child is a good way to help you monitor their online profiles,” Dr. Neill said. “Make sure to talk to your child about being a good ‘digital citizen,’ and emphasize that cyberbullying is never OK. However, you should build trust with your child and avoid reading their messages or texts unless you have cause for concern.”

Parental Media Use

If parents are concerned about their child consuming too much media or media having a negative impact on their child’s development, their first step could be to reduce their own media use.

“There have been studies showing that heavy parent use of mobile devices is causing fewer interactions between parents and children,” Dr. Neill said. “Set a good example: If you say, ‘No phones at the dinner table,’ then make sure to follow your own rule. And don’t make your children feel they need to compete for your attention.”

Lake Regional Cares for Kids!

Children and teenagers receive personalized care at all seven Lake Regional primary care clinics. To find a pediatrician or family medicine provider, visit lakeregional.com/physicians.

Rose Green-Flores is a Lake Regional Public Relations Specialist.