On Tuesday October 18th the American Academy of Pediatrics released an updated policy statement for “Media Use by Children Younger Than Two Years”. This post is intended as a resource for parents interested in their findings, along with my own summary of comments in the report I think are valuable.
Link to: Full text of updated report
Link to: Press release summarizing the report
The report addresses whether video and televised programs have any educational value for children under two, and if there is any harm in such children watching these programs. The report did not cover specific interactive media like iPads and tablets. By the time long-term research is complete on interactive media, our children will be grown. Families need to move forward based on the information we have now, and determine what’s relevant.
Why is the age of two important in this conversation? (Note, if I’m using quotes, I’m quoting the report.) “To be beneficial, children need to understand the content of programs and pay attention to it. Children older than two years and those younger than two years are at different levels of cognitive development and process information differently.”
Notable topics in the report:
Talk Time – “Infant vocabulary growth is directly related to the amount of talk time, or the amount of time parents spend speaking to them. Heavy television use in a household can interfere with a child’s language development simply because parents likely spend less time talking to the child.”
Set Limits – “If parents choose to engage their young children with electronic media, they should have concrete strategies to manage it. Ideally, parents should review the content of what their child is watching and watch the program with their child.”
Parent’s Use of Media – “Parents need to realize that their own media use can have a negative effect on their children. Television that is intended for adults and is on with a young child in the room is distracting for both the parent and the child.”
Being Read To – “Families should be strongly encouraged to sit down and read to their child to foster their child’s cognitive and language development.”
Independent Play – “Unstructured playtime is more valuable for the developing brain than any electronic media exposure…Even for infants as young as 4 months of age, solo play allows a child to think creatively, problem solve, and accomplish tasks…” According to Dr. Brown, “Children need this in order to figure out how the world works.” (This quote is from the press release.)
During minute 23 of the press conference on the youtube address, Dr. Brown emphasizes that parents should thoughtfully consider media use. To me, this means that before presenting media to our kids, we think about the trade-offs and reasons for our actions. Why are we using media? What else could/should we be doing with our time? Is media helping us accomplish a goal, or is it undermining a goal? If we think about why we choose media, maybe we’ll have more confidence when we do choose media.
Do I dare extrapolate, and relate these topics to APPS? Of course!
Talk Time – Find apps that encourage conversation! Which apps ask you questions, enable you to record your voice, or omit sound effects so you can provide your own “vroom vroooms”?
Set Limits – In the report they mentioned parents have TVs in children’s bedrooms, and that this tends to disrupt sleep patterns. If TV disrupts sleep patterns, mobile touchscreens probably do the same thing. Limits on media, regardless of device, feels like a responsible move.
Parent’s Use of Media – If background television distracts the family from interacting with each other, then parents who are distracted by their smartphone are probably falling short as well. It’s our job, as parents, to set a good example.
Being Read To – Print book, eBook, iBook…is the parent reading to their child? I think that is the relevant question here. Is the parent using their voice and intonations to cuddle up and read…
Independent Play – Are we being entertained, or are we entertaining ourselves? Which apps put the child’s creative process in the driver’s seat? Which apps let us draw, create, and problem solve, because those are the ones I want on our family’s iPad…
As always, thanks for listening. I hope this helps you evaluate media’s role in your family.
Lorraine Akemann | Editor | Moms With Apps