Just now, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that children ages 18 month and under have no exposure to screens, and that kids older than two should limit screen time to 2 hours a day. But that policy was drafted before the first generation iPad, and even the AAP now acknowledges that policy is obsolete.
Screen addiction isn’t yet a clinical diagnosis in the US, but is at some countries and we’re edging toward that. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation study, 8 to 10-year olds spend some 8 hours a day glued to their smartphones, tablets, computers and TV. For tweens and teens, it’s about 12 hours. And given that the study was in 2010, it’s safe to assume those numbers are climbing. By comparison, U.S. adults are spending an average of 11 hours and 52 minutes a day with media (five hours for digital media, 2 1/2 hours on mobile devices for activities other than phone calls.
What’s more, our kids are getting hooked earlier than ever. A new survey presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies in April found that infants just six months old were already logging half an hour day on mobile devices, and not just watching cartoons. A third were swiping and tapping screens. By age two, kids are using tablets and smartphones, sometimes while glued to the TV. In fact, more than 30% of kids in the US first play with a mobile device while they’re still in diapers, according to Common Sense Media. And about a quarter of all teens admit using the phones constantly, according to the Pew Research Center.
Talk to parents, and you’ll get an even clearer picture: In a recent survey of 800 American moms and dads of kids aged 2 to 12, 56% of them say it’s typical for their kids to be watching different content on different devices at the same time. And kids have to get their daily fix: A majority of those parents—41%—said their child would choose their tablet over dessert.
But parents are also partly to blame. Despite their concern about screen overload, two thirds of parents said they had no rules limiting their children’s screen time, according to the Kaiser study. And a recent Harris Poll found another big disconnect in parental attitudes: While 58% say that monitoring kids screen time is important, 59% say they don’t feel guilty about using mobile devices as a babysitter. Dads feel this way more than moms, as do parents aged 45 and over compared to millennial parents aged 18-34.
What can we do, set limit and set an example, and set boundaries for technology. Balance between technology and real life is the key.