The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released a statement encouraging parents to ban direct screen time (television, movies, and any portable screen device) for children under two years of age. The Academy explained, “This updated policy statement provides further evidence that media — both foreground and background — have potentially negative effects and no known positive effects for children younger than 2 years. Thus, the AAP reaffirms its recommendation to discourage media use in this age group.”

A recent survey conducted by Common Sense Media indicates that many parents are ignoring the Academy’s advice. In the survey, found here, thirty seven percent of the households surveyed reported that over forty percent of their children under age two watch either TV or DVDs at least once a day. In a typical day, babies and toddlers spend an average of fifty four minutes watching TV or DVDs, compared to an average of twenty three minutes a day being read to. Twenty nine percent of 6 to 23 month olds in this study have a television in their bedroom (Emphasis and loud gasp ours). The Academy’s statement has been debated in cyberspace (where else) and has received pushback from parents who suggest that it is unreasonable and unrealistic to ban all screen use, and prefer instead to allow their toddlers to watch “Sesame Street” or play a game on the Ipad in moderation.

The Common Sense Media survey also found that about forty percent of 2- to 4-year-olds and more than half of 5- to 8-year-olds use smart phones, video iPods, iPads or similar devices. Common Sense has determined that in addition to the substantial digital divide (which exists because the majority of children from lower income and less well educated families do not have a computer at home), there is now an “app gap” between higher and lower income children, in terms of their access to and use of newer mobile devices and the programming available especially for these devices.

Of particular note to the GCP audience are the study’s findings pertaining to race. African American children aged 0-8 average about forty minutes more television, DVDs and/or video watching per day than their white counterparts. However, they spend more time reading per day than white children as well, albeit only thirteen minutes more.

As children are introduced to technology at home at younger and younger ages, educators are hotly debating whether technology aids or hampers their learning at school. While some schools are rushing to provide laptops to their students as noted in a recent article found here, others are dramatically reducing or eliminating technology in schools, as was reported in a recent NY Times article found here.

Whenever your children are introduced to technology, they need to know how to use it in a productive and enriching manner. This can be tough to encourage for parents who are not up to speed on the latest technology themselves. But help is available. Many apple stores nationwide offer FREE workshops which help them help them manage what their kids see and do with their devices. Go to and find your local Apple store’s website, look for the listing of sessions for “kids and parents”, and check out what programs are being offered. (Parent Visibility is the one that teaches you how to monitor the devices.) Some Apple stores offer “apple camp” and other programs for children 8 and up, so it is worth checking it out for them as well. If you are in the New York City area, take your children to the Sony Wonder Technology Lab. Their website, found here, is full of free and low cost technology based
activities for children to enjoy.

For more suggestions of how to handle your child’s screen time, check out “Friend or Foe? The Ultimate Screen Time Guide For Kids” on The Mom Loves Best blog. It is chock full of info and suggestions for managing your kids’ screen time.

How are YOU handling screen time with your kids? Are you delaying your toddler’s introduction to technology, or does he know how to use your laptop better than you do? Are you OK with your young ones having screen time? If so, are they using educational programs, or do they just play? And are you making sure they are spending the same amount of reading or being read to? GCP wants to hear how you are handling this brave new world of technology. Let us know!!

**This post was originally published in 2011 and has been recently updated.**