New Screen Suggestions by The American Academy of Pediatrics
Insights as a media professor and parent.
Posted Oct 02, 2015
Recently this week, the American Academy of Pediatrics made some new recommendations for parents as they navigate the uncertain waters known as “screen time,” (Brown, Shifrin, & Hill, 2015; Shifrin et al., 2015). As a professor of media, psychology and mother of a toddler, I struggle with establishing limited screen interaction. I have felt guilty if there is too much and worried if there is not enough (alluding to research that says that the active use of devices can set the foundation for later computer interaction skills.) I appreciate the benefits of technology and television including what my little one can gain from the fantastic offerings today — things like novel vocabulary exposure and object recognition. It provides a way to observe things that are not easily accessible. In my years of teaching and research, I believe the greatest thing is to provide an environment that promotes learning and exploration. This tenant has now been made a recommendation by the Academy. I am thankful to see what I often impart to my students now in print.
I want to give some insight into my life — my little one loves music. At a young age, she danced in circles around the room, smiling when she heard a tune she recognized. However, I cannot sing to save my life (ask my husband and a karaoke D.J. that once said to me after my rendition of Blink 182's Adam's Song: “Wow that was the cutest, most awful thing I have ever heard!”) So, what do I do to keep her musically entertained? We play the radio, musical toys, and I let her watch YouTube song clips on an iPad. Today music is available on various, well-created, educationally bountiful programs and apps. As a professor I am admitting something very serious here — I did and still do let my child view media on a regular basis.
If you have kids, you know. You want their environment to be enriched, and one of the ways is to present a fun, and creative environment is through the medium of technology, television, and various media. When she was much younger, I would limit this to only 2 to 3 short three-minute clips per day. Won’t that shorten her attention span you ask? Well, even in play she moves from one thing to the next well before we did this. I believe it's just her natural energy drive and developmental stage.
I believe these recently published parameters give caregivers a better sense of "how to watch." While sounding like I am “preaching” what I am “teaching," I am a mom in the real world, with a real daughter who wants to sing, dance, play a game and have fun. And to be even more real — while she's having fun, it gives me a few minutes to relax. You often do not hear about that in most research circles. Until now. We often read facts, statistics, and outcomes. Although, the little tike within my family gave me another lens through which to view my years of researching children and media. Now, I do let her watch a few episodes with my co-viewing presence so we can share the laughs, the learning and the smiles. Pointing and talking about what is happening on screen has been an excellent means to enhance her vocabulary and knowledge about the world. Together.
These recommendations are a significant first step in providing parents a map in navigating screen time with their growing children.
Brown, A., Shifrin, D., & Hill, D. (2015, October 1). Beyond 'turn it off': How to advise families on media use. Retrieved October 2, 2015. http://aapnews.aappublications.org/content/36/10/54.full
Shifrin, D., Brown, A., Hill, D., Jana, L., & Flinn, S. K. (2015). Growing Up Digital: Media Research Symposium.