For some, a cellphone is just a convenient way to keep in touch. But for many, it’s become an ‘essential’ and at times an over-dependent lifestyle accessory. One which can have a damaging effect on your health and relationships. It’s time to take control of your phone and not let the phone control you.
Fed up with your children (and maybe your spouse) being glued to their smartphones or tablets for hours on end? To the extent that communication is a struggle and getting them to put them down, let alone turn them off, is practically impossible? Well, you’re not alone.
That’s why a new American Academy of Pediatrics policy proposes that parents develop and reinforce media guidelines that go beyond how much time is spent on media and consider how they are used. A key recommendation includes drawing up a Family Media Plan. This is the outline of their Plan:
Strive for balance with Family Media Plan:
Using the plan, critical health practices are followed daily, including attaining one hour of exercise and 8 to 12 hours of sleep (depending on age). To ensure that sleep is restful, the policy says children should not sleep with media devices in their rooms and should avoid any screen time for at least an hour before bed. The plan also suggests designating screen-free locations at home, such as the bedroom, as well as media-free times such as family dinnertime or while driving. Families are guided to prioritize these health practices, to consider other responsibilities such as homework, sports and time with friends, and then to determine how much time is “leftover” that may be considered for media use.
The policy promotes thoughtful selection of media, as well as co-viewing of media by parents and their children. Through co-viewing, parents have the opportunity to learn about their children’s interests, discuss family values and share experiences. Experiencing media together provides ongoing opportunities for families to communicate about treating others with respect (both online and offline), avoiding risky behaviors and developing healthy relationships.
The policy statement represents a step beyond traditional screen time limits and encourages mindful media parenting. Pediatricians have the opportunity to encourage ongoing communication between parents and their children toward balanced and positive media use.
Recommendations for families:
For children younger than 18 months, discourage use of screen media other than video chatting.
For parents of children 18-24 months who want to introduce digital media, select high-quality programming/apps and use media together with children.
For children 2-5 years, limit screen use to one hour a day of high-quality programming, and co-view with children.
Avoid using media as the only way to calm a child.
Keep bedrooms, mealtimes and parent-child playtimes screen-free for all.
Stop using screens an hour before bedtime and remove devices from bedrooms before bedtime.
Avoid fast-paced programs, apps with lots of distracting content and violent content.
For the full report and more advice: