Businesses and individuals have an ethical obligation to protect those most vulnerable to our world’s dangers. In many cases, we have done a phenomenal job. In some cases, we have failed tragically. That is why I paid particular attention to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ report last week containing specific recommendations about children’s use of media and parental responsibility.
The AAP report is based on an analysis of how children’s media use affects their development in such areas as thinking, sleep, socialization, academics, and communication. The AAP acknowledges the tremendous good that comes from media use. However, it provides some very good age-appropriate guidelines to help parents structure, format, and limit media exposure.
While I am never one to adopt practices just because a particular organization makes the recommendation, I do think that these guidelines are effective for any child’s development. Here are some of the key recommendations:
- For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting. Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming, and watch it with their children to help them understand what they’re seeing.
- For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.
- For children ages 6 and older, place consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health.
- Designate media-free times together, such as dinner or driving, as well as media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms.
- Have ongoing communication about online citizenship and safety, including treating others with respect online and offline.
We don’t have to search very long to see how these guidelines could have prevented numerous modern online and in-person disasters. My only regret is that the AAP did not release these recommendations sooner. After all, we must help our kids control the beast before the beast controls them.