The AAP Finally Admits Screen Time Isn't The Enemy

by Ashley Austrew
Originally Published: 

If you’ve become a parent any time during the past decade, chances are you’re no stranger to the ways of Daniel Tiger, the Bubble Guppies, or the Paw Patrol. You’re also probably not a stranger to people telling you that all those shows are turning your kids’ brains to mush and you’re a horrible parent for allowing it to happen. Well, hold on to your TV remote because the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has finally crossed over to the dark side. They recently announced that they’re revising their official stance on screen time.

Previously, the AAP recommendations stated that kids shouldn’t be exposed to screens before age two, and even then, screen time should be strictly limited. Now, in a new set of “key messages” for physicians to focus on when advising families, the AAP admits that screens are more present than ever, and their policies “must evolve or become obsolete.” They’re shifting their focus away from hard limits and instead teaching parents about smart consumption: setting limits, monitoring the content of shows and games, and preserving “tech-free” zones like the dinner table.

Unsurprisingly, many of us were breaking the old “rules” already. According to a 2011 study by Common Sense Media, 29 percent of kids under one watch television, and 64 percent of toddlers watch more than two hours of TV and videos per day. That means we’ve been hip to the ways screen time can benefit us for a long time, though it’s not always an easy thing to admit.

Somehow — probably due in part to former AAP recommendations — screen time became yet another hot-button issue that parents go to battle over. Perfect moms and dads brag about their lack of a television or how little Johnny wouldn’t even know what to do with a tablet. Meanwhile, the rest of us are sitting there praying our toddler doesn’t mention that she watched five episodes of Super Why yesterday.

The thing is, it doesn’t matter. If you’re using common sense, television isn’t going to kill your kid. It was never going to do anything to your kid, except maybe teach him the alphabet or a few new words. Most of us already knew that and have been practicing common sense media consumption with our kids for a long, long time now. Thanks, AAP, for finally catching up.

If this change in tactics teaches us anything, it shouldn’t be that screen time is good or bad. What we should really take away from it is that what’s “best” for kids is fluid and changes with the times. Nothing is ever set in stone, so judging each other for inconsequential parenting choices is a waste of time and energy.

It’s great that the AAP has found a real-world way to advise parents on media consumption, and even better that they’re recognizing the very important and necessary role technology plays in our lives. The best thing of all, though, is affirming what we already knew: no matter what, our kids are going to be just fine.

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