Kids now spend more of their waking hours consuming media from their smartphones, TVs, and computers than any other activity, including attending school. But parents are not as involved as they should be in limiting media use, according to a policy statement published this week by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). One reason: Parents don’t see how many hours their children spend in front of a screen.
The AAP statement, published in the journal Pediatrics, notes that more kids are using media behind bedroom doors or on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. A recent Kaiser Foundation study found that 71 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds reported having a TV in their bedroom, 84 percent have internet access, and 75 percent own a cell phone, up from 45 percent in 2004. These devices consume a startling 7.5 hours of the average kid’s day.
Today’s children and teens are living in a world dominated by mobile and online media, but many parents are still just keeping an eye on the living room TV. “This is the 21st century and they need to get with it,” said Victor Strasburger, one of the statement’s lead authors. The statement notes that parents who want to monitor their children must keep an eye on their laptops, tablets, cell phones, text messaging, and social media sites. But the Kaiser study found only one in four of those surveyed reported having media use rules enforced in their home.
Excessive and unrestricted media exposure in kids is linked to aggression, violence, bullying, problems in school, obesity, and lack of sleep, according the AAP statement. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The Kaiser study found that 20 percent of teens have either sent or received a sexually explicit text or email. “I guarantee that if you have a 14-year-old boy and he has an internet connection in his bedroom, he is looking at pornography” said Strasburger.
The AAP’s recommendations are common sense, but apparently not common practice. They encourage parents to make a plan about the quantity, quality, and location of media use in their home. Parents are encouraged to keep screens out of kids’ bedrooms, co-view media programs with kids, choose programming that models good behavior, keep home computers in a public place, and get a Facebook account and “friend” their child. They recommend limiting overall media exposure, other than homework, to less than two hours per day for children and teens.
With teens sending an average of 3,364 text messages a month, unregulated use of media devices could also affect their future job prospects. The prevalence of cell phones is starting to change the way the younger generation views business etiquette: A study published in Business Communications Quarterly found that 80 percent of 21- to 30-year-olds consider it appropriate to check texts or emails during informal business meetings, while only 33 percent of those 51 and older consider it appropriate.