Parents: Do you know what your child is watching?

TV

Kids are spending much of their time in front of screens, and the increasing popularity of various new media makes it vital for parents to keep a close eye on how their children are using these technologies, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

From television to computers, cellphones to tablets, the average 8- to 10-year-old spends nearly eight hours a day using various types of media, noted an AAP policy statement published in the journal Pediatrics.

Teens average more than 11 hours a day.

In other words, many children now spend more time using media than they spend in school—or doing any other activity except sleeping.

Yet about two-thirds of children and teens say their parents have no rules about media use, according to the AAP.

“[We] continue to be concerned by evidence about the potential harmful effects of media messages and images,” the policy statement noted.

The AAP recommends that parents limit children to no more than two hours of recreational (noneducational) screen time every day.

It offers the following tips to help parents meet that goal as well as be sure that their children aren’t being exposed to unhealthy material:

  • Make a family plan for media use—and enforce it. Set rules for using cellphones, Internet, texting, social media and screen time.
  • Monitor what your children are doing when they are online. Know which websites they visit and what social media they use.
  • Watch TV and movies along with your child or teen. (TV is still the dominant medium for kids, notes the AAP.) Use these viewings as an opportunity to discuss your family’s values.
  • Ban media devices during mealtimes, and set an evening curfew for devices to be turned off.
  • Keep televisions and Internet-connected devices out of children’s bedrooms.

Parenting a teenager can be challenging. Learn how to survive your child’s adolescence here.

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