Planning family media use can benefit children’s health

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When it comes to screen time, how much time is too much? How young is too young for a smart phone? Experts say what’s right for your family might not work for another, but building a family media plan can help you figure it all out.

Large, medium, and small screens — they’re everywhere you look. How often do teens and kids use them and when? What happens when screen time cuts into physical activity or sleep?

“We’ve really tried to answer that in a way that will help parents know how to create some balance,” said Dr. Jenny Radesky. She’s a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the author of the 2016 media use guidelines for children.

She’s a member of the AAP Council on Communications and Media, which created an interactive website parents can use to build their family’s personalized media plan.

“You can plug in who your children are, what their ages are, and then you get a few choices of what are the different healthier balanced technology-based behaviors that would be appropriate for that age,” she explains.

Radesky recommends families try one or two things that would work. “For some families it might be let’s pick a few unplugged spaces in our house or a time of day, like dinnertime,” she says.

Radesky also says parents should explain their media use out loud, for example, say “I’m texting dad to tell him where we should meet.” It demonstrates positive smart phone use.

“They want to know these things. They want to feel in control,” she says.

The World Health Organization just issued guidelines recommending little or no screen time for children under five.

Radesky says those guidelines are most important if a family is worried about a child’s obesity risk.

Research shows an hour to 90 minutes of media use increased the risk of obesity.

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