Posts Tagged ‘ screen time for kids ’

Parenting Principle #4: Reduce Electronic Noise

Monday, June 30th, 2014

What are the parenting principles for raising happy, well-adjusted children? Here the focus is on reducing the electronic noise that permeates modern family life.

Electronic devices are a fundamental part of the fabric of modern family life. Most families have some form of electronic device in operation, and most have multiple streams going on, typically simultaneously. There’s no point to suggesting that life will be any different in the near future.

The reality is that it is up to parents to try to make sure that the benefits of screen time outweigh the downsides. The primary downside is when electronics interfere with parent-child interaction.

We can see this everywhere. It’s not hard to discover young kids in restaurants spending most of their time on their smartphone or other device. Their parents may be on theirs as well. The fact that this is happening isn’t so disconcerting, if it is balanced with some quality family talk time. Meals used to be a primary way for families to interact and talk and all be together without interruption. We need some of that back.

And the same goes for family time at home. Even the good old television is a continuing source of interference for parent-child interaction. A recent paper published in the Journal of Children and Media found, using a controlled experimental setting, that parental talk (number of words and utterances per minute, as well as number of new words used) decreased when there was background noise from the TV. Electronic noise becomes intrusive even when we aren’t aware of it and, simply put, interferes with parent-child interaction.

We are aware that we need to monitor what kids are exposed to on television, radio, smartphones, tablets and computers. We know that it’s important to turn those things off sometime so that parents and kids can talk and play and interact without distraction. But it’s really important to keep in mind that we aren’t good at blocking out the background noise even if we think we aren’t paying attention to it. We all get more than enough screen time. It’s worth making sure we get in the habit of reducing the electronic noise that we have floating in the background because it’s an insidious siphon of parent-child time. It’s easy – just turn it off.

More in This Series

If you have school-age children, make sure they sign our Family Use Internet Contract.

Setting Limits on Technology
Setting Limits on Technology
Setting Limits on Technology

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New Data Reveal How Dominant Screen Time Is In Kids’ Lives

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

The new guidelines on screen time offered by the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) take as a premise that media use is “dominant” in kids’ lives. A new report issued by Common Sense Media provides detailed survey data which certainly supports this claim. Vicky Rideout, who directed the research, suggests that we are seeing an extraordinary growth in media use in general over the past two years – driven in particular by mobile devices. Consider some of these key findings as reported by Common Sense Media:

•   In 2013, 75% of kids have access to mobile devices at home, up from 52%.

•   Smartphones are still the most common device (63%, up from 41%), but tablet ownership is 5 times higher (8% to 40%). 

•   The number of kids who’ve used mobile devices has nearly doubled (38% to 72%); and average daily use of mobile devices has tripled, from 5 to 15 minutes a day.

•   As many little babies and one-year-olds have used smartphones or tablets today as all kids under eight had done just two years ago (38%).

So what can we learn from these data – and what can parents do to make sure they are providing good guidance for their kids? Caroline Knorr, Parenting Editor at Common Sense Media, shared these insights and suggestions:

The report shows that families love mobile devices. There has been a five-fold increase in ownership of tablet devices since 2011. That means choosing high-quality, age-appropriate apps is more important than ever. Don’t treat app downloads as an impulse purchase – do your research to find the best ones that will really engage your kids in learning, thinking, and other skills. Common Sense Media offers reviews and ratings for parents – and while there are tons of apps in the app store, only a handful earn Common Sense Media’s four and five star ratings.Here’s a link to our Preschool Prep app reccommended list:

Kids really love mobile devices. Almost twice as many children have used mobile media compared to two years ago. That means it’s easier for parents to enjoy media WITH their kids — anywhere they are — instead of plopping them down in front of a stationary computer and not knowing what they’re doing. Take advantage of mobile device’s flexibility in allowing positive media experiences to happen with your kids where ever you happen to be.  But along with that there’s a responsibility to make sure that kids aren’t OVER-using screens (and that you aren’t relying on devices as a babysitter, say in the car or in restaurants). Remember to balance kids’ days with a variety of experiences that promote healthy development. Allow them to develop the skills to self-soothe, be patient, and not have to be entertained 24/7. Here’s a link to Learn to Read apps:

TV is still king and families love to “time-shift.” Kids love TV – in fact, it is the dominant delivery system for educational content. Take advantage of “time-shifting” functions like your DVR, On Demand, and even streaming shows. Dig through the vast amount of offerings to find entertaining, educational shows – including all of the older shows you may have enjoyed as a kid and are offered by a lot of these services.  These allow parents to make quality choices mindfully – rather than just letting one TV show flow into the next – and expose kids to a wider variety of content. They also allow you to reduce kids’ exposure to commercials. Here’s a link to classic streaming TV shows:

Overall, parents should really think hard about these data, and develop a systematic approach to monitoring and structuring their kids’ screen time. Resources like Common Sense Media can offer a variety of tools to support that.

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New Guidelines On Screen Time For Kids

Monday, October 28th, 2013

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued new guidelines on kids’ screen time  – some of which will become incorporated in the well-child visit with a pediatrician. Here’s a breakdown of the key things to know:

Why Issue New Guidelines Now? It’s been over a decade since the AAP issued formal guidelines – so the current “2-hour” limit on screen time is quite dated. As noted in the AAP report, media use is a “dominant” force in kids lives. School-age kids may be spending 8 or more hours looking at a screen – teens might spend close to 11 hours a day. Some of this is productive time, some of it should be avoided. Thus, new guidelines are offered to help parents regulate screen time and give their kids a platform for making good choices to use screen time wisely.

What Are The Two Key Issues For Parents? Pediatricians will be counseled to ask parents two questions during well visits:

  • How much recreational screen time does your child or teenager consume daily?
  • Is there a television set or Internet-connected device in the child’s bedroom?

Let’s start with “recreational screen time.” It’s acknowledged that kids now use screen time for a variety of purposes – including educational ones. So rather than have an arbitrary number of total “screen time” hours as a guideline, the purpose here is to regulate and limit recreational time. Here the less than 2 hour rule will apply, which is more than reasonable. Kids need to spend time doing other things – like moving their bodies. Trying to cap recreational screen time is realistic and sensible.

The issue of screen time in a kid’s bedroom follows the same principle. Clearly some kids are doing homework in their room and will be using a computer. The point here is to develop some consistent and good practices – especially establishing a rule for turning off the electronics well before bedtime. Using technology is not a good way for kids to unwind and prepare for sleep – and we know that many kids do not get enough sleep. So while having screens in bedrooms – especially with mobile devices – may be common (though not necessarily endorsed), using them right up to bedtime should not be a common practice.

What About Babies? The AAP still does not love the idea of babies staring at screens. Nearly any professional who studies babies will tell you that they need to look at faces, hear voices, and interact with people a lot. This is not going to happen if parents are preoccupied with their mobile device while baby plays with a tablet. So the bottom line is to discourage (not ban) screen time for babies – specifically kids under 2 years of age. It may be added as a corollary that interactive time with baby is more than highly encouraged.

How Do You Make All This Happen? Pediatricians will suggest making a family home use plan for all media, keeping these recommendations in mind. This is a very solid idea, given how much time many of us spend with technology, especially mobile devices that become omnipresent. It will be important to come up with a realistic and enforceable plan for your family and your kids that considers the when and where and how of screen time – including a plan for becoming familiar with and monitoring the content of what your kids are watching. Having some type of plan – and these sensible suggestions to follow – can help parents proactively manage screen time at a time when it is, indeed, “dominant” in our society.

What career will your kiddo have? Take our quiz and find out! Plus, check out our 10 favorite apps for preschoolers.

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Kids And Mobile Devices: Half Of Kids Under 8 Use Them

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

Last Friday my post focused on what I called the new challenge for setting media use guidelines for parents: “transportable technology.” I mentioned how I didn’t have data to share on how many kids use some form of it. Now there is some. 

I just read an article in the New York Times that presents an overview of the results of a survey study of 1,384 parents conducted by Common Sense Media, a non-profit group based in San Francisco. According to the report by Tamar Lewin:

The study found that fully half of all kids under 8 had access to a mobile device like a smart phone, a video iPod, or an iPad or other tablet.

James Steyer, chief executive of Common Sense Media, offered the following quote in the article:

It’s the beginning of an important shift, as parents increasingly are handing their iPhones to their 1 1/2-year-old kid as a shut-up toy. And parents who check their e-mail three times on the way to the bus stop are constantly modeling that behavior, so it’s only natural the kids want to use mobile devices too. 

Of course, many parents – especially those with babies and toddlers – will consider mobile devices to be potentially educational. But the fact remains that while parents continue to receive guidance on limiting screen time for their kids, the reality is that most parents are increasing their own screen time because of mobile devices. And so are their kids (especially since the majority of kids also watch TV/DVDs and increasing numbers use desktop computers).

This is why I suggest that transportable technology is the new challenge for parenting babies and toddlers – simply put, it is rapidly changing the landscape of monitoring screen time (for both parent and child). Thoughts?

Image by Stuart Miles courtesy of

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