ELK GROVE VILLAGE, Illinois, October 30, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – An influential pediatric’s group is warning doctors and parents about the serious risks unrestricted media use on smartphones, laptops, tablets, and TVs poses to children and teens.
“[T]he evidence is now clear that [media] can and do contribute substantially to many different risks and health problems and that children and teenagers learn from, and may be negatively influenced by, the media,” the American Academy of Pediatrics said in its revised policy statement on “Children, Adolescents and the Media” released on Monday.
Risks and problems associated with media consumption by children and teens are linked to violence, sex, drug use, music videos, and obesity.
Pediatricians were concerned when a recent study showed that the average 8 to 10-year-old spends nearly 8 hours a day with a variety of different media, while the average teens spend more than 11 hours per day.
Media use, especially via social media sites such as Facebook, was found to be the leading activity for children and teens other than sleeping, surpassing the amount of time spent in school.
Pediatrician Dr. Victor Strasburger, lead author of the new policy, said that parents are “clueless” about how much time their children spend using media and about what kind of content their children are viewing.
“I guarantee you that if you have a 14-year-old boy and he has an internet connection in his bedroom, he is looking at pornography,” Strasburger told Associated Press.
Two-thirds of children and teens report that their parents have “no rules” about time spent with media, the pediatricians state in their report.
“A healthy approach to children’s media use should both minimize potential health risks and foster appropriate and positive media use—in other words, it should promote a healthy ‘media diet’,” said Marjorie Hogan, MD, co-author of the new policy in a press release.
“Parents, educators and pediatricians should participate in media education, which means teaching children and adolescents how to make good choices in their media consumption,” she said.
While pediatricians say that some media has “prosocial uses” that positively influence children, they are “concerned by evidence” indicating that for most children and teens the negative outweighs the positive.
The Academy of Pediatrics is asking its members to ask two questions to parents during childcare visits:
- “How much recreational screen time does your child or teenager consume daily?”
- “Is there a television set or Internet-connected device in the child’s bedroom?”
It is also encouraging parents to model effective “media diets” to their children and to “establish a family home use plan for all media”. Parents should limit their children’s “total entertainment screen time” to no more than 2 hours per day.
“Model active parenting by establishing a family home use plan for all media. As part of the plan, enforce a mealtime and bedtime ‘curfew’ for media devices, including cell phones. Establish reasonable but firm rules about cell phones, texting, Internet, and social media use.”
“Keep the TV set and Internet-connected electronic devices out of the child’s bedroom,” the pediatricians recommend to parents.
Parents of children under two should discourage “screen media exposure” altogether.
Pediatricians are also calling on the entertainment industry to make movies “smoke-free, without characters smoking or product placement”.
No mention was made by the group of challenging the industry on its often promiscuous and unprincipled portrayal of sexual matters.