Guidance on Digital Media Use

In November of 2017, reSTART founders Cosette Rae and Hilarie Cash contributed to an article titled Internet Gaming Disorder in Children and Adolescents published by the American Academy of Pediatrics discussing the current state of video gaming, internet and problematic social media use in children and adolescents.

Guidelines by the American Academy of Pediatrics suggest the following:

  • Screen use in children less than 18 months of age (besides chatting by video) should be avoided. Although it may be tempting to give your child a device, the AAP suggests that screen use at this age is counterproductive to healthy development. 
  • Limit screen use in children less then 5 years of age to less than 1 hour per day. Sure, this might seem difficult to do, but the developmental rewards are tremendous. A child’s brain is constantly building a network of connections based on incoming stimuli from the environment. Healthy children have access to a variety of settings, activities, and opportunities to learn and grow. Your child will have plenty of time to learn how to use a device over the course of their lifetimes. The thoughtful limiting of screens will foster offline exploration and play.
  • Consistently set boundaries for screen use in children over 6. It’s difficult for a child to set screen limits on their own. Parents play a critical role in teaching children how to manage their urge to use screens. A parent’s healthy modeling of their own use will assist children and adolescents in learning how to do this on their own.
  • Parents are encouraged to be involved in their children’s tech use. Spend time understanding what children are doing online, while using games, and on their devices. What apps do they access? What games are being played? Are there any hidden apps being used? Do they share pictures with friends?
  • Discuss respectful communication and appropriate digital citizenship when using screens. Bullying and being bullied online has dramatically increased over the past decade. It’s important to be involved and explore the type of social interactions being experienced by children in video games, over social media, and in back and forth in screen conversations with peers. 

The takeaway? Screen time may interfere with the developmental stages of childhood without active parent involvement. The developing child needs time for play, to sleep, to explore the physical world, and time for social and emotional connection with others. Screen use that interferes with a rich and rewarding natural world experience has the potential to interfere with a child’s development over time.

If you think your child has a problem, complete a Brief Internet Game Screen to learn more about the signs and symptoms of problematic use. To learn more, or to speak with a treatment specialist call 800.682.6934

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