Revised screen time guidelines for children, AAP 2016

Revised screen time guidelines for children – AAP, 2016

Raising a child today is different from raising a child 5 years ago.  Ipad was just a year old and had not reached every home. Smart phones had just entered the common man’s market. Google Glass and Samsung Gear VR were unheard of.

In 5 years, the world of technology has grown by leaps and bounds. IPads and tabs are common in every household. There are as many smartphones in a house as there are people.  Or maybe more. Flat screens adorn the walls of every household. Laptops and PC have not disappeared. Screens are ubiquitous and cannot be avoided

So, how can we control screen time for children?

Media can be used for consumption,  creation, communication. They cannot be entirely classified as harmful or harmless
Consumption – Watching videos. (Beyond a limit, harmful)
Creation – Creating digital graphics, illustrations and other art (Beneficial since fostering creativity)
Communication – Skype/ Face time. Etc (Beneficial since promoting interaction and family ties)

Hence, should we completely generalize that all screen time is harmful? Should we avoid showing our new-born babies on Skype to our extended families elsewhere?

With this fast evolving nature of digital media, American Academy Of Pediatrics announced revised guidelines for screen time for babies and young children, dated October 21, 2016. The earlier recommendation was no absolute screen time under 2. This rule is relaxed now.

Revised screen time guidelines :

Under 18 months – Absolutely no screen time other than for video chatting. Either with a parent abroad (expats will know this situation absolutely well) or grandparents in home country or relatives abroad etc. Video chat that mimics real live interaction bring in educational value. Eg : I have seen my daughter pick up words from her grandmother who sings to her via Face time or  mimic her action.

18 months to 2 years –  Highly educational videos like the Sesame Street series or videos by PBS is acceptable. Parents are advised to co-view with their children and explain to them what they are watching since they cannot relate to videos themselves. Research has shown contingent interaction – two-way interchange is far superior in promoting learning than passive videos.  (While 80,000 apps are marked as educational, little research is done on its accuracy.  Same goes for Youtube videos of rhymes and colours, I suppose)

2 to 5 years – An hour of highly educational videos is acceptable. Again parents have to co-view with their children to make them understand and help in applying it to the real world. Treat passive videos like a picture book. Explain to them as they go.

The changing guidelines do not effectively say what a single parent with no one to help should/can do to entertain their child for a few minutes, maybe to use the toilet or take a shower or cook a meal? What about long rides ?

For parents who strictly avoid any devices for children and worry if their parenting methods are wrong or if their child wouldn’t be able to adapt to the ever-changing tech world,  AAP says these modern devices are so intuitive that children learn it’s working very easily. Pretty true. Give a phone to a 3-year-old for the first time and they can easily unlock and even start a game probably.


With this changing nature of media, how can parents change their parenting strategy ?

Recommendations for parents :

Set Limits – Media usage should be overlooked by parents. Set strict limits and schedule as like in other aspects of parenting such as sleeping, feeding etc.

Set media-free zones – We have a rule in the house of no TV during dinners. It really promotes conversation amongst us when there is no constant blaring of the TV. Similarly reading rooms, bed rooms, play areas etc should be devoid of screen.

Be a role model – Over usage by the parents should be avoided. Telling your child to switch off the Ipad while you hold the smart phone in your hand is not going to cut it. Children learn by watching adult action not hearing commands. Responsible adult digital media behaviour should be adopted.

Engage children – Involve older children in teaching you about new apps, games and gadgets and also even in setting rules.

Night usage – Avoid using of all digital media at night. Light from the screen inhibit melatonin secretion thus disrupting sound sleep.

Online behaviour – Parents should teach their children about online behaviour and etiquette,  being a responsible digital media citizen and about leaving a beneficial digital media footprint.

Avoid displacement – Digital media should not be allowed to become electronic babysitters or given as rewards or taken away as a punishment. Rather a child should be taught its judicious use. Also give ample time for social activities, face to face interaction, creative play and fun.

Screen are everywhere therefore it is inevitable our children are going to be exposed early on. The guidelines will keep changing with evolving tech gadgets. For now, let us make sure our children have a healthy,  happy childhood where they know how to interact with a guest, interact with their peers or take care of a pet.


(Since digital media has not been available in mainstream and everyday life until a few years back, long-term research of effects of media both on babies and adults is not yet available. Burden of proof lies with research in validating the pros and cons of digital media)

Source :


Related Reading :

Advising families on media use – AAP
Check ratings of media for children – Common Sense Media
Media plan for families – AAP
Washington Post article on new guidelines.
Electronic toys do not bring in as much benefit as advertised – Research
Revised screen time guidelines for children , AAP 2016.

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26 Replies to “Revised screen time guidelines for children – AAP, 2016”

  1. I find it amusing how they keep revising the guidlines to be more flexible. They keep younger and younger age. I mean there WAS a time when they said absolutely no tv for children. But yes very important to set limits.

  2. In the beginning I followed the guidelines to a T! But now I go based on how my kids respond to screen time. I can tell when they have had enough.

  3. That’s an interesting and really informative post… Such guidelines are necessary for new parents as parenting has become very challenging in recent years…
    I don’t have kids yet but whenever I see my niece and little cousins using the latest gadgets I’m amazed, I also feel proud at their intelligence but yes I agree it is important to set limits…

  4. The most burning problem after healthy eating habits by kids is screen time…how many hours you allow your kid to watch TV or tab…or how you cut screen time for kids…this is really an informative post…much helpful…

  5. It is so sad seeing more and more kids being completely consumed by phones at parties. Once upon a time kids used to look forward to parties so they can play with each other! Limits are so important to avoid the harmful effects of screen time.

  6. I don’t limit screen time, but I also don’t let them watch tv all day. We go day by day, depending on our schedules they may watch no shows, or 6. Everything we watch is educational though, so I’m not too worried about it. They’re developing very quickly and have no issues playing away from technology.

  7. Judicious use—yes! Our kids are always the last ones to get anything electronic. I just have this sneaking suspicion that electronics would reduce their attention span too much. You’re right about modeling behavior, though, and I need to work on that. Right now I stink at it!

  8. Funny how they keep revising the guidelines. We have 5 (yes, FIVE) tablets in our home and they’re hardly ever used. My daughter uses her InnoTab Max tablet probably 2-3times per month for a total of probably less than 2 hours the whole month. I’m not sure how we even accumulated so many tablets. Lol. But surprisingly, my girls aren’t that interested in that type of technology. They’re very hands-on and active so we do a lot of DIY projects and outdoor activities together. I think that helps quite a bit.

  9. Things are moving so fast they now use ipads in schools and nursery’s. We do limit screen time but i also have found some of the educational apps brilliant. Hands up i do allow my children to watch a film or use the ipad when i need some time to finish housework. But we try and keep a limit. What i haven’t considered was limiting my screen time. A lot of my business is done online. I should have a rethink.

  10. While I do not have any children of my own, as a educator to young children – I can fully get on board with everything that you’ve stated. While media can be great in certain educational programs and settings, we live in a society where children start binge watching from a young age. Thanks for sharing!

    – AH

  11. Whew! I have a three year old and a four (almost five! how time flies!) year old, and we simply don’t allow screen time on school nights. No games, no educational shows, no nothing. We’re more relaxed on the weekends, but man! The siren call of the iPad for a toddler is absolutely impossible for her to resist.

  12. Interesting information. I have never really followed any guidelines with my munchkin. I can usually tell if she is done and often times she lets me know herself. I think it is interesting that they say to watch with the kids to help them understand what they are watching. Thank you for sharing.

  13. Only my oldest, who is 7, uses technology, but all three boys enjoy TV. They watch education programs, but they definitely watch more than the guidelines. We still read books, play games, and play outside, so I think it balances it out.

  14. I find it fascinating that there is even a need for screen time guidelines. When did parents stop being parents and instead let the world, how-to books, and guidelines replace their instincts? Parents just need to be parents and start trusting that they know what is best for their kids. Screen time regulations offer blanket advise, when in reality, each child and each version of home life will vary greatly. In my opinion, appropriate screen time can only be determined on a case by case system.

  15. Thanks for sharing this. While I am not sure strict about screen time I do try to limit it… Even for myself as an adult I feel like to much screen time isn’t a good thing!

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