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Help your child navigate the digital world

Published in Pediatrics, For the Health of It Author: Denise Lenarz,MD Author: Denise Lenarz, MD

CentraCare Clinic - Health Plaza Pediatrics

Even though the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) discourages “screen time” for children under age 2, more than 30 percent of U.S. children first play with mobile devices when they still are in diapers.

Almost 75 percent of 13- to 17-year-olds have smartphones and 24 percent use them almost constantly. The AAP recommends limiting “screen time” to two hours a day for children older than 2.

Do these guidelines work in today’s world? The AAP held a “Growing Up Digital: Media Research Symposium,” which brought together leading social science, neuroscience and media researchers, educators, pediatricians and representatives from key partner organizations. The symposium limited its focus to early learning, game-based learning, social/emotional and developmental concerns and strategies to foster digital citizenship.

Media is an environment. Like any environment, there are positive and negative effects. Even though our environment may be rapidly changing, the rules of parenting have not:

  • Play with your children.
  • Set limits.
  • Teach kindness.
  • Know your children’s friends.
  • Know where they are going.

Tips for growing up digital

  • Be a role model. Limit your screen time.
  • Talk to your children. Passively watching videos does not encourage language development for infants and toddlers.
  • The quality of content is important. Rather than just setting a timer, pay attention to how your children spend their time.
  • Participate in a video game together or watch a video with your kids. Discuss the game or video.
  • Unstructured playtime is important. Prioritize daily unplugged playtime — especially for young children.
  • Establish boundaries. Does your children’s technology hinder participation in other activities?
  • Remind children to be aware of their surroundings. When they play Pokémon Go, they are walking in the real world. They need to look up frequently to stay safe.
  • Teens can be online. Teach teens appropriate behaviors that apply in the real world and online.
  • Preserve family mealtime as tech-free.
  • Recharge devices overnight outside your children’s bedrooms.
  • Kids will make mistakes. Use mistakes as teachable moments. However, be aware of risk-taking behaviors such as sexting, posting self-harm images and bullying.

With proper parental guidance, children can be healthy and happy in the digital world.