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Tips AAP to Help Families Manage the Ever Changing Digital Landscape:

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Welcome to the world of the Digitods: the young children born into the era of mobile technology. These kids are learning faster and better than any generation that has come before them. And they are loving it! Take a look at toddlers using an iPad. They are pictures of concentration. Their hands are moving and their eyes are constantly scanning the screen. They are in an active state of learning: their neurons are firing on all cylinders! It is not surprising that they find learning such an enjoyable activity, with the bright colors, interesting activities and cheery voices urging them on.

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Have you ever tried getting a Digitod's attention when he is working with an iPad? It is not easy.

Children & Technology: A Parent's Guide

Often, the child is so fixated on the work that he protests when he has to move on, even to something as interesting as a snack. It just underscores what teachers have always known. As kids enter preschool and early elementary school, we emphasize certain boundaries to parents: This is very early for a smartphone, and kids this age should not have computers or televisions in their room.

This is when we want parents to model and begin to build healthy screen habits while remaining very well aware of what their children are doing on screens. And according to research, not all screen time is created equal. Mediated viewing watching an age-appropriate show with a parent and talking about it can actually be a very important learning and relationship-building experience. Think in terms of small doses of screens and set up family norms where there are no screens at dinner or no screens at mealtimes in general.

For families building these commonsense screen plans, resources like ChildMind. As we get toward late elementary school, around age ten, we start to see kids requesting a smartphone or more time with a computer. At Child Mind, age ten is the absolute earliest we recommend any kid have any phone of any kind. It is not something they keep with them all the time. Strike a balance between setting boundaries around screens and having thoughtful discussions about online habits—and how they should reflect the values that we promote for face-to-face interactions with others.

Being alone in their rooms all the time can decrease social interaction as a family, and kids who spend a lot of time alone may be more prone to depression and anxiety. Video games come down to a case-by-case basis. In other words, if a kid is playing a video game that involves a lot of fighting between characters, what parents want to be sure of is that they are not seeing those behaviors mimicked in a school setting or in conflicts with siblings.

Still, their prefrontal cortex, which governs prioritizing, impulses, and decision-making, may not be fully developed. What we try to build into families are decision-making processes so that parents and teens can come to the table together to talk about what they would like to see around screen-related behaviors and agree on solutions that they can try out for short periods of time.

Netflix keeps a record of what you view. So if a teen wants full independent access to their phone, that phone is just as much an instrument for engagement with social media as it is an instrument to tell their parents where they are on weekends. In the working world in the future, they are likely going to use a computer. We see a lot of media stories filled with worry about teens losing face-to-face interaction skills because of screens. But teens who use screens in moderation tell us that their social worlds are richer because of screens.

That can be a very positive effect of screens. We also have many conversations surrounding sleep hygiene and screens. If teens cannot manage getting off of screens by bedtime, parents have to set some boundaries. We need to help teenagers develop responsible decision-making around screens, the same way we have conversations about responsible decision-making around parties and social events and things that may be a significant risk at that age, like drinking or marijuana.


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Negotiating screen time with teenagers is usually easier said than done. What helps? For help creating contracts with kids, we often send people to one of our community partners, Common Sense Media; their site has all kinds of drafts of technology contracts that parents can utilize. This is like going into a diplomatic summit. There are going to be certain things you are not willing to negotiate. You might decide your nonnegotiables are that the phone is in a charging cradle outside their room by p.

At the same time, open communication and negotiation are important.

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Parental Controls | Common Sense Media

With those nonnegotiables, you bring into the discussion what your teens say they would like. What should we actually be concerned about? Media stories are sometimes the most sensational examples of a certain phenomenon. But the reality is that yes, there are concerns and things we want parents to be on the lookout for. And it can often be suffered in secret.

Toddlers & Tiaras

How do adverse effects of screens manifest? Is it causal? Does screen time change the brain?