When I asked my daughter recently how far along she was in her book, her response was "67 percent." Which reminded us just how much kids today are "digital natives" and how even old-school activities like reading now often take place on screens. But the proliferation of screens -- and the ease with which children access and use them, often for play -- isn't all good, says the American Academy of Pediatrics. This week it issued new guidelines for kids' media use, urging families to curtail use at mealtimes and bedtimes and all the time for very young children.
The new policy comes as a new study (see my colleague's post yesterday) found children -- even very young ones -- are spending an increasing amount of time with some type of media (whether tablets, TVs, smartphones or computers).
That is worrisome to pediatricians, said Victor Strasburger, a pediatrics professor at the University of New Mexico, according to USA Today.
"We are worried that a lot of parents are clueless about their kids' media use and how to manage it appropriately," said Strasburger, co-author of the new academy statement.
They are "spending more time with media than they are in school. They are spending more time with media than in any activity other than sleeping. You could make the argument that media have taken over the primary role of teaching kids from schools and parents in many cases," he said.
The pediatrics academy's statement -- revised for the first time in five years -- urges parents to make a "media use plan" for their family.
The plan should include a "media curfew" at mealtimes and at bedtime, the group said, and prohibition against all media use for kids under 2. That is because "uunstructured play and human interaction" is far more valuable for a developing brain than "passive media use."
The academy also urged parents to keep TVs and game consoles out of children's bedrooms because that increases media use. And it urged pediatricians to ask about media use when children are in the office for well-kid visits.
Of course, setting limits can be harder when the stuff out there is ever more enticing to kids. NPR reported this morning on how video game makers study how to make children keep playing.
Which is probably fine to a point. But too much, the pediatrician group warns, can contribute to obesity, sleep and school problems, among other issues.
Not to mention conflict within families when it's time to power down.
As one mother told NPR, "I hate it. I really do. He could play Xbox for 12 straight hours."
Pediatricians hope she doesn't let him.