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American Academy of Pediatrics Issues New Guidelines for Media Use

Oct 21, 2016

Credit freeimages.com/Wynand Delport

In a world where digital screens are everywhere, the American Academy of Pediatrics has relaxed its recommendations for how much media exposure is safe for babies and toddlers.

The old rule was no screen time before the age of 2.

The new guidelines say for babies younger than 18 months, that's still true, with one exception: live video chats.

From 18 to 24 months, AAP suggests parents may introduce toddlers to educational programming for brief periods.

"No screens under two becomes such an extreme thing that a parent may reject that entirely, I lose them and I don't get any benefit,” said Dr. Stephen Cook, a pediatrician at Golisano Children’s Hospital. “So, I see where the balance is and I try to incorporate it."

But he strongly encourages the whole family to consider how often they're gazing at a screen.

"The light from LEDs and that exposure isn't good for brains for sleeping. That alone will get the parents' attention for teenagers and school-aged children. Then when we discuss the fact that you have to look at how the infant or toddler brain is growing and working, there are a lot more things going on there, and they're not as beneficial or helpful as we seem to think they are."

The new guidelines from the Academy of Pediatrics recommend no more than an hour a day of screen use for 2 to 5-year olds.  Parents are urged to coview with their children and talk about what they're watching and learning.

Above all, Dr. Cook reminds parents to emphasize physical activity and face to face communication. "More than just swipe left, swipe right. It's climbing, it's stacking, it's rolling, being on the ground; it’s rolling and falling down. Communication is interactive. I say something, and they say something back."

Research exploring the effect digital screen exposure has on young, developing brains is limited because of safety concerns. Dr. Cook explained that just like research into lead exposure in children, most of the data is collected by observing children after exposure has occurred.