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Pediatric group changes guidelines for kids' screen time
Experts say video chatting OK for babies
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Eden Leaphart, 6 months old, plays with toys Friday at Covenant Connections Church in Flowery Branch. According to Eden’s parents, she spends no more than 30 minutes a day watching “Baby Einstein” to give her mom time to shower or to keep Eden calm on long car rides. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Screentime recommendations

• 18 months and younger: Avoid other than video chatting.

• 18-24 months: Choose high-quality programming, and watch it with your children to help them understand what they’re seeing.

• 2-5 years old: Limit to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs, , and watch it with your children to help them understand what they’re seeing and apply it to the world around them.

• 6 and older: Place consistent limits on the types of media and time spent with it. Make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health. Spend some time together without media and designate media-free places at home. Talk about online safety and treating others with respect online.

Source: www.aap.org

Parents take note: The American Academy of Pediatrics has recently released a new policy and changed their recommendations for how much time tiny tots should spend in front of digital devices.

Becca and Jerry Leaphart allow their 6-month-old daughter Eden very little screen time.

“Some days she does not watch any,” Becca said.

The academy now suggests children as young as Eden can spend 30 minutes in front of a screen if video chatting. Otherwise, the academy suggests avoiding exposure altogether.

Becca said Eden averages about 30 minutes of direct screen time per day.

“(That’s) when we will let her watch ‘Baby Einstein,’” Becca said of the company that offers multimedia products for infants and toddlers.

They chose this program for two reasons, she said: “It is very basic and not intensely stimulating.”

For the Leapharts, it’s “Baby Einstein” or nothing, but the length of time depends on the situation.

“Some days, when we are on a long drive and she’s having a meltdown to get out of her car seat, which she hates, me or Jerry will let her watch ‘Baby Einstein’ to calm her down,” Becca said.

There’s also another situation she mentioned where Eden might get more time in front of a screen.

“If I’m alone at home and need to take a shower and she is not wanting to play with any of her toys, a quick episode of ‘Baby Einstein’ allows me to take a shower,” Becca said. “I agree that screen time should be limited, but sometimes you just need a shower.”

The new recommendation suggests about half an hour of screen time. Video chatting and interactive, high quality programming should be the only items playing in front of children, the academy suggests.

“But if she’s playing on the floor and watching TV, she almost always will watch and play,” Becca said.

Day cares like First Presbyterian Church Child Development Center are aware of how much time the children they care for spend in front of a screen.

“In this day and age, children are just relying too much on technology,” center director Susan Moon said. “So it’s good that we can offer them a place here that is mostly free of it.”

First Presbyterian is part of the quality-rated program, which monitors day cares and sets guidelines for them to follow. It has higher standards than those set by each state; its guidelines suggest no more than 20 minutes per week.

At the day care, infants, crawlers, young and older toddlers have different amounts of time set aside for media.

“We don’t ever just sit and watch movies,” Moon said.

If there is media involved in their day, it’s mostly through use of TVs during music lessons.

“It’s very, very limited and interactive,” Moon said.

To replace the time usually spent in front of a screen, the day care offers the children activities ranging from music and movement, outside time, story time and free play, and children can choose which they prefer to take part.

The Leapharts also take advantage of what free time they have with their daughter.

“Honestly, we don’t have a ton of down time, so there is not much opportunity for (media use),” Becca said.

The Leapharts both work at the Covenant Connections Church day care, where their daughter is with them most of the day.

“While she is there, she’s playing in the classroom, and we do not typically have any screen time in the infant and toddler rooms,” Becca said.

Once they get home at the end of the day, it’s time for dinner, bath and play time.

“We want her attention and don’t want to share with the TV,” Becca said. “On weekends, it’s the same way. Since we have a full free day, we want to play with her.”

The weekends are reserved for family or friends and venturing out.

“She can sit in the front of the shopping cart, she loves to sit up there and watch everything,” Becca said. “Now that the weather has cooled off, (we love) spending time outside.”

An interactive media use planning tool was introduced along with the Academy of Pediatrics’ new guidelines, which aims to “help families balance digital and real life from birth to adulthood,” according to the website.

The tool was created to help families design their own Family Media Use Plans to help maintain a healthy media diet, depending on the health, education and entertainment needs of each child. Too much screen time can also harm the amount and quality of sleep, the academy website said.

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