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Should parents limit children’s daily use of digital technology – computers, laptops, TV? The Department of Health recommends limiting the amount of screen time for kids based on their age range.
In a former life as a developmental psychology researcher studying how children learn from watching others, I met thousands of parents with children under 5 who came into the lab for research. In the waiting room, I saw how families took radically different approaches to their offspring’s screen use. Some parents proudly told me about their screenless lifestyle, clearly wanting me to validate them as having made the right decision. Others had no qualms about sitting their kids down with their phone. Others did the same but kept apologizing to me for it, as if they were sure that researchers like me would judge them for their parenting choices. I generally wasn’t—I’m not a parent, and the one thing I took away from that job was that parents really want to do right by their kids. But I can see why it touched a particularly sensitive nerve, given how society’s love for judging parenting choices is merging with the greater cultural conversation around whether our digital devices are rotting our brains, changing our attention span, and maybe toppling democracy.
– Jane C. Hu
In 2019, The World Health Organization released a new set of recommendations for children under 5, including directives for “sedentary screen time.” According to the WHO guidelines, children between 2 and 5 should receive no more than 60 minutes of screen time per day, and children under 2 should not spend any time with screens. These guidelines are similar to those issued in 2016 by the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommending that no screen time should be given to children under 18 months, and only 1 hour for kids between 2 and 5.
Any screen time with children under 5 should supervised by engaged adults, who can answer questions and police inappropriate content.