The AAP Now Agrees with What Parents Have Known About Kids and Screen Time

Image of Father and Son playing on a tablet showing kids and screen timeThe AAP Now Agrees with What Parents Have Known About Kids and Screen Time

Kids are spending more time with screen media than ever before. The bigger concern for many is we’re seeing kids at younger ages interacting with devices. So kids and screen time has been the cause of much concern for many parents and educators. And, until this week, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), was still recommending parents limit the screen time for children to no more than two hours per day. This was total screen time. So this 2 hours included time spent in front of a television, tablet, computer, laptop, or mobile phone. The AAP made virtually no mention of age. They also did not note if any kind of content should be limited within this 2 hour window. These recommendations for kids and screen time were a simplified blanket approach to media use.

The problem with this approach is designating use simply as “screen time” can miss some important variations.

When Considering Kids and Screen Time We Need to Look at 4 Main Categories

  1. Communication: using our devices to communicate (social media, Skype, FaceTime)
  2. Content Creation: using our devices to create something (videos, music, digital art)
  3. Interactive Consumption: using our devices to surf the Internet or play games
  4. Passive Consumption: using our devices to watch movies or television, read, or listen to music

We know not all screen time is equal. While we don’t want our kids sitting in front of a screen for hours on end, we have come to learn that what our kids are doing on their devices matters more than time spent with media.

This week the AAP released new recommendations for kids and screen time. These guidelines, noted in the science journal Pediatrics show the AAP has significantly revised its thinking on kids and media usage. They’ve broken down media use according to these categories. They also published an interactive, online tool that families can use to create a personalized Family Media Use Plan.

These guidelines are long overdue. Parents have long known all media content is not equal. It’s easy for most parents to differentiate between entertainment and educational programming. But, these guidelines do lift that burden of guilt many parents feel when their kids spend hours online doing research for a school project or taking an online class. Parent guilt is a real thing even if we want to pretend we don’t fall victim to it.

So with these new recommendations in place how can you help ensure your child develops a healthy balance with media?

  1. Pay attention to how your kids act during and after watching TV, playing video games, or hanging out online. If you notice negative behavior, evaluate the content of their media and/or the time spent with it.
  2. Make sure the majority of your child’s media time is spent with high-quality, age-appropriate media.
  3. Balance your child’s screen-time activities with plenty of healthy screen-free ones.
  4. If you’re concerned about heavy media use, create a Family Media Use Plan that works for your family. This can include weekly screen time limits, limits on the kinds of screens kids can use, and guidelines on the types of activities they can do or programs they can watch. Be sure to include the entire family when setting up the plan. Doing so is the first step to teaching your kids to self-monitor.
  5. Limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs for children ages 2 to 5 years.

Special Note for Kids and Screen Time < 2 Years Old

  1. Avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting for children younger than 18 months. But video-chatting with parents who are away, grandparents, and other important people is fine.
  2. If you choose to introduce media to children 18-24 months, find high-quality programming and co-view or co-play.


You know your child. You can see that “zoned out” look come over their face. You know when the screen is merely a babysitter and when they are truly learning. Use these guidelines, have a family media plan, and be watchful. The truth is most families will go through periods of heavy and light media use. As long as there is balance, your kids should be just fine.

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