In 2016, the AAP suggested avoiding use of screen media other than video-chatting for children younger than 18 months. The 2016 guidelines suggest that children 18 to 24 months of age can view digital media of high-quality programming, whereas children aged 2 to 5 should be limited to one hour per day of high-quality programming. Children aged 6 and older should have consistent limits placed on the time and types of media consumed.
In 2017, the AAP guidelines were studied by researchers from Oxford University and Cardiff University. The study, published in the journal Child Development, found restrictions on children’s time in front of smartphones or tablets were out-of-date. Researchers suggested the AAP guidelines might be out of date because they don’t account for how prevalent smartphones and tablets are in everyday life. “It is incumbent on researchers to conduct rigorous, up-to-date research that identifies mechanisms by and the extent to which screen-time exposure might affect children, said study co-author Dr. Netta Weinstein of Cardiff University.
In all cases, the AAP recommends co-viewing of content and subsequent discussions between children and parents or guardians to help children understand what they are viewing. The AAP also recommends developing these guidelines with children to make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health. Research suggests that less than half of the time spent in front of screens by children aged two to ten is spent consuming content that is educational in nature (Rideout, 2014).