Managing the screentime of children and adolescents in a society saturated with digital devices is a concern for parents and carers endeavouring to do the right thing by their children. The official guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics which recommend 2 hours per day were last revised in 2001, well before smart mobile devices. The guidelines are under review, however, in the meantime they are being used to make judgements that don't fit with the reality.
Earlier this year, The Conversation reported on research reflecting the inadequacy of these screen time guidelines:
A recent online poll of 18,000 children by ABC children’s program Behind the News found that 56% of respondents exceed that two-hour daily limit.
A survey of 2,620 Australian children aged eight to 16 years had similar results. The study showed that 45% of eight-year-olds to 80% of 16-year-olds exceed the recommended less than two hours per day limit.
Australian recommendations from the eSafety Commissioner use the Department of Health physical health and sedentary behaviour guidelines but the recommendation for 5-17 year olds of less than 2 hours per day is still unrealistic.
Options for parents therefore fall back on personal judgements. Common Sense Media, (US based) recommends that parents make those judgements by identifying four main categories of screen time:
- Passive consumption: watching TV, reading, and listening to music
- Interactive consumption: playing games and browsing the Internet
- Communication: video-chatting and using social media
- Content creation: using devices to make digital art or music
The Australian Office of Children's eSafety Commissioner offers Managing Online Time which includes an excellent series of videos from child psychologists who speak directly to specific parental concerns. For an Australian audience in particular, they are recommended.
Finally, this infographic makes a distinction between educational and recreational screen time and provides an overview for families to manage screen time quality and quantity for young people. Family involvement and sharing of responsibility is the most recommended approach and, in the meantime, we look forward to an update of the guidelines that are used as benchmarks that influence media reporting of the issue.