JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - With cell phones, tablets, TVs, and other forms of media becoming a staple in our lives, they are also becoming staples in our children's lives.
Children are exposed to screens earlier and earlier. But is it safe? How much screen time is too much?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recently changed its guidelines to better fit the ever-changing world of technology we live in.
The AAP said on average children spend 7 hours a day looking at a screen.
Dr. Kasey Holder, vice president of medical affairs at St. Bernards Medical Center, said there are concerns when it comes to handing a screen over to a child.
"In this day and age, screen time is just impossible to avoid," Dr. Holder said.
In addition to practicing medicine, Dr. Holder is also a mom. She looked at what the AAP suggests to get help in her own home.
"You have to find a balance," Dr. Holder said.
Screens are everywhere. Kids find them in the classroom, at home, in restaurants, even at the doctor's office.
"Every kid is different," Dr. Holder said. Every family is different, as well.
Amanda Dickerson's daughter has limits that work for her family.
Dickerson said the limits came into play very early due to her educational background and job as an occupational therapy assistant.
"We limit screen time, phone, iPad, television to 30 minutes," Dickerson said. "On the weekend, she gets an hour a day."
Dickerson's 3-year-old daughter Paisley knows Mom and Dad are serious when it comes to screen time.
"It limits their creativity and their imagination, or their self-sufficiency," Dickerson said.
Through Dickerson's work, she sees what too much time on a screen can do and Dr. Holder agrees.
"Difficulty recognizing human emotion because they don't have that face-to-face interaction," Dr. Holder said. "Attention problems, difficulty with sleep, poor school behavior, and of course obesity."
Dr. Holder has seen some of those problems in her own home.
"He's allowed to play 3 days a week, an hour at a time," Dr. Holder said.
Her son was spending too much time gaming, but since setting limits, she has seen a big change.
"As far as his behavior, family interaction, and getting along with his sister, I've had success following those guidelines," Dr. Holder said.
The AAP's former guidelines for kids and screen time use were specific. It advised parents on a specific number of hours, when, and where, but the new guidelines adapt to our technology driven society.
The AAP realized screens aren't all bad.
Schools across Region 8, like Weiner Elementary, use technology in the classroom. In fact, every student has an iPad, Chrome book, or laptop.
Using technology and screens at school goes in hand with AAP's new guidelines.
Dr. Holder explained the AAP encourages using screens for education.
"The quality of screen time and the quantity of screen time, and they really encourage parental involvement," Dr. Holder said.
The AAP wants parents to interact with their children while using media to allow kids to get one-on-one interaction.
"I'm not going to say she can't use technology at all because I'm not going to not use technologies," Dickerson said.
That's what the AAP has realized and why they are focused on parents deciding what's right for their family.
"It's very important for the parent to be the role model," Dr. Holder said.
"If you are sitting on your phone or your tablet all day long, what kind of role model are you," Dickerson said.
The 4 pieces of advice AAP wants parents to focus on are setting limits, quality of screen time, parents as role models, and parents interacting with children on the devices.
Dr. Holder said she plays video games with her son sometimes to help incorporate that last guideline.
If you struggle setting limits, Dr. Holder said a great place to start is designating screen free zones.
"Bedrooms at night, no TV's, no iPads, or screen free family time, like dinner," Dr. Holder said.
"Paisley is not allowed to watch TV or play on a phone an hour and half before bedtime," Dickerson said.
Holder and Dickerson said as parents it can be hard to stick to the limits you set, but the best offense is fought with a good defense.
"Tell your kids I'll play blocks with you, or I'll play catch with you in the yard if you do this chore or something they have to do," Dickerson said.
Both parents along with the AAP realize as technology changes and as kids grow, rules will have to adjust, but it's making the first step to controlling screen time that's important.
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