Children and digital media: Time to get outside

March 7, 2017

It’s becoming more common than ever to see children glued to bright screens, tapping away on their devices. While becoming completely connected to their online world, they often become disconnected from reality. Many parents are thankful for technology providing endless entertainment to their young ones, but many experts are concerned about the effects.

Media exposure plays an increasing role in the lives of infants and toddlers, despite the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations. A recent 2015 study showed by the age of one, 92.2 per cent of children have already used a digital device, while by the age of two, most children are using mobile devices on a daily basis.[1]

The time spent on a screen dramatically increases as children age. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, eight to 10-year olds spend eight hours a day on various digital media mediums, while teenagers spend 11 hours in front of screens.[1] This constant connection to media has resulted in over 50 per cent of adolescents feeling addicted to their phones, according to a 2016 survey.[2]

Technology now no longer ends at just television and movies, but also texting, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, video games, virtual reality, tablets, vlogs, blogs, and more. Children today are spending less time outside than any other generation. On average children are spending a mere four to seven minutes on playing outdoors compared to the over seven hours devoted to screen time. [3]

The American Academy of Pediatrics recognizes outdoor play as an important role in child development, contributing to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth.[4] Play in a natural outdoor environment provides children with opportunities for self-directed physical activity, promoting physical health, reducing obesity, and let’s not forget getting their vitamin D!

AAP recommendations surrounding technology use

  • Limit the amount of total entertainment screen time to < one to two hours per day.
  • Discourage screen media exposure for children < two years of age.
  • Keep the television and WiFi-enabled electronic devices out of children’s bedrooms.
  • Monitor what media children are using and accessing, including any websites they are visiting and social media sites they may be using.
  • 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 general social media use. [5]

  1. Reid Chassiakos Y, Radesky J, Christakis D, et al., AAP COUNCIL ON COMMUNICATIONS AND MEDIA. Children and Adolescents and Digital Media. Pediatrics. 2016;138(5): e20162593 https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/pediatrics/early/2016/10/19/peds.2016-2593.full.pdf
  2. Chassiakos, Y. R. (2016). Technical report on youths’ digital media use answers 25 clinical questions. https://www.aappublications.org/news/2016/10/21/DigitalMedia102116
  3. “Improving Health by Reconnecting Youth with the Outdoors.” Children in Nature. https://www.nrpa.org/uploadedFiles/nrpa.org/Advocacy/Children-in-Nature.pdf
  4. Ginsburg, K. (2006). No Child Left Inside: Reconnecting Kids with the Outdoors. American Academy of Pediatrics. Retrieved from https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/federal-advocacy/Documents/NoChildLeftInside-ReconnectingKidswiththeOutdoors.pdf.
  5. Strasburger, V. C., & Hogan, M. J. (2013). Children, Adolescents and the Media. American Academy of Pediatrics. https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/pediatrics/132/5/958.full.pdf.
  6. Martinko, K. (2016, March). Children spend less time outside than prison inmates. https://www.treehugger.com/culture/children-spend-less-time-outside-prison-inmates.html
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