Screen Time For Children Under 2 Is Okay, Doctors Say

By Woman’s Day 

New rules say toddlers over 18 months may consume media—with caregiver supervision.

The recommendation that children under age 2 avoid all screens has been amended as of today.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now says children from 18 to 24 months may be exposed to a limited amount of digital media, if a caregiver is present and actively participating in screen use, too. Certain studies indicate that infants in this age range can learn new words from educational videos when “parents are watching alongside them, repeating what the video says and/or drawing attention to what is on the screen,” according to NPR.

The new guidelines reflect what many families have been doing anyway since the last official screen-time recommendations were released 17 years ago, when FaceTiming with grandma wasn’t an everyday occurrence. Surveys show that parents consider video chatting with out-of-town relatives an exception to the “no screen-time” rule, believing its benefits counteract the potentially negative effects of baby’s interaction with tablets and smartphones.

While pediatricians maintain that their no-screen ban for babies under18 months is best, they do say FaceTime is an exception. There’s scarce evidence that infants can understand, let alone benefit, from watching TV or going online, but seeing family members live on-screen can help build relationships, according to USA Today.

Other types of screen time, however, can cause a disconnect between parents and young babies, according to CNN, like if a mother is nursing her baby while watching TV, for instance.

“The noise and activity of a screen are distracting for a child,” Dr. Yolanda Reid Chassiakos, lead author of the AAP’s report in Pediactrics journal, told CNN. “When a mother is breast-feeding, that is a crucial bonding time.”

Eye contact and non-verbal communication such as facial expressions between parent and baby is essential for children’s healthy emotional development. When infants are consistently deprived of attention they may develop behavioral issues, Chassaiakos said.

The updated guidelines also lowered the recommended amount of screen time per day for children 2 to 5 years of age. Previously the Academy recommended no more than 2 hours, and now they’re saying children should be limited to one hour per day.