In the App Store, you’ll spot countless educational apps aimed at babies and toddlers. But thus far, there’s been a pretty large caveat that comes with the potential benefits of these experiences. The American Academy of Pediatrics has regularly discouraged any of this screen time, with a blanket recommendation to avoid TV watching and smartphone use by children under two. For children over two, they recommended the limits be set at two hours a day.
Now, following research analysis and opinions expressed by top neuroscientists and pediatricians during a two-day symposium the AAP ran in May on just this topic, the organization has penned a series of unofficial guidelines full of advice for parents. Its biggest determination?
“Media is just another environment,” according to the AAP. “Children do the same things they have always done, only virtually. Like any environment, media can have positive and negative effects.”
In other words, the digital world is just an extension of the analog world, which means you can hand your kid that smartphone with minimal guilt. However, there are a slew of cautions included with the report. Namely, parents need to still exercise discretion when it comes to the content being consumed. They should keep in mind that children under two don’t seem to absorb information from passive media (like Sesame Street playing on the TV). Engaging in content alongside your child is best–be that playing a two-player game or explaining what they’re watching on TV. And nothing replaces the linguistic teaching power of simple talk time between an adult and an infant or toddler. (Just because the AAP isn’t outright banning infants from using screens doesn’t mean that scientists are recommending their use.)
Of course, the list just goes on from here, and it’s a must-read, both for parents managing this media, and designers who create apps and media for children.
But the biggest takeaway that screens are okay for little kids is exciting, and could open the doors for more innovation in an increasingly app-based world. (Leapfrog, notably, has never designed screen-based experiences for children under 18 months.) For those awaiting even more details, the AAP will be releasing their full, formal recommendations on the topic some time before the 2016 AAP National Conference & Exhibition.
Correction: Our original piece said that the AAP had “rewritten its recommendations” when in fact, an AAP representative tells us they still stand, stating in email that, “The original recommendations are still in place. The AAP still discourages screen media for children under two, and recommends two hours a day for all children.”