Pediatricians Call for Limit on Kids’ Media Time

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Cole Chanin-Hassman, 10, looks at a computer game called Minecraft on his laptop. Like many other kids his age, the Los Angeles fourth-grader counts among his entertainment tools his Xbox 360 game console, his Android phone and his computer. (Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

Kids spend way too much time consuming media – more time, in fact, than they spend in school, the American Academy of Pediatrics says.

From TV to new media including cellphones, iPads and the Internet on traditional computers, media consumes nearly eight hours a day for the average 8- to 10-year-old, says research cited by the AAP. For teens, the amount of time spent on media increases to 11 hours a day.

“The overwhelming penetration of media into children’s and teenagers’ lives necessitates a renewed commitment to changing the way pediatricians, parents, teachers, and society address the use of media to mitigate potential health risks and foster appropriate media use,” the AAP says in a policy statement.

Marjorie Hogan, a co-author of the AAP statement and a pediatrician at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, told Youth Today excessive or inappropriate media use among youngsters can lead to attention problems, difficulties in school, sleep and eating disorders, obesity and aggressive and antisocial behavior.

Despite the staggering amount of time kids spend on media, many parents appear to have few rules about its use, the AAP says.

“What we’re calling for in this statement is for a healthy media diet – really analogous to the way we talk about food group families, making healthy choices in what’s offered and making sure you get the requisite amount of fruits and vegetables,” Hogan said. 

“It’s the same with a media diet: What kinds of programming are you helping your children choose? How many hours is the television on a day?”

Hogan noted the study calls for a family media-use plan, including a mealtime ban on media use and a bedtime curfew on use.

Among other recommendations in the AAP policy statement: 

  • The amount of entertainment “screen time” should be limited to no more than one to two hours a day per child.
  • TVs and Internet-connected electronic devices should be kept out of a child’s bedroom.
  • Pediatricians and other healthcare providers should ask families during a child’s visit how much recreational “screen time” the child consumes daily and whether the child has a TV in his or her bedroom.
  • Parents should monitor what media their kids are using, including websites they are visiting and social media sites they are using.
  • Parents should view TV, movies and videos with their children and discuss important family values.
  • School boards and school administrators should be educated by pediatricians about health risks linked to unsupervised, unlimited use of media by kids and take steps to mitigate the risks such as violence prevention, sex education and drug abuse-prevention programs.
  • Pediatricians should maintain a dialogue with organizations including the AAP, the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and the American Public Health Association to “maximize prosocial content in media” and minimize harmful effects such as portrayals of violence and smoking.
  • The federal government should be urged by the AAP and its local chapters to initiate legislation and rules that would ban alcohol advertising on TV; advocate for a federal report on the impacts of media on kids; encourage the entertainment and advertising industries to create more prosocial programming and to reassess the effects of existing programming; and work with the U.S. Department of Education to create media-education curricula for youth.

The AAP policy statement also points out media can have positive influences on children through content that is educational, teaching basic skills as well as empathy, racial and ethnic tolerance and interpersonal skills.