As a parent, it’s tough to balance what’s age appropriate for children with what’s trending. Consider some of the headlines in the past few years: Kim Kardashian West piercing her daughter North’s ears before she was one. Or Hilary Duff and Victoria Beckham kissing their children on the lips; it’s hard to know what is socially acceptable anymore when the internet is full of people who firmly ground themselves into one way of thinking.
The same holds true for the use of technology. In 2016, the American Association of Pediatrics changed their original stance on screen usage. Their first recommendations focused on limiting screen time as much as possible because of its unknown effects. However, they’ve recognized the ubiquitous role of technology in the lives of everyone and now have a focus on “a healthy media diet” and the prioritization of outdoor play and unplugged time.
Just when things were looking up, and parents everywhere let out a collective sigh knowing that the half hour of YouTube Kids their two-year-old and seven-year-old were watching wasn’t going to damage them permanently, research being presented at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting found that children who started using devices under the age of two might be at a higher risk of expressive language delays. The key point to note in these findings is that the conclusion was drawn only in children who had not yet begun to talk themselves.
So, what’s the right answer?
Maybe there isn’t one, at least not yet, and especially not when it comes to setting stark age limits or time restrictions. If families are going to set screen time restrictions, consider what works best for the family. Parents are the governing body of the household, and they should have the final say. Parents set the limits that work, provide insight into how screens are to be used, what type of content is appropriate, and should always be cognizant of when kids need fresh air.
The key takeaway when it comes to anything centered on parenting, children, and family life, is that everything is negotiable (maybe not that 8:30 bedtime, though). Life is not black and white, and the way families use screens is no longer limited to AOL chat rooms and endless cat videos on YouTube. Technology is omnipresent; it cannot be avoided. The same takeaway can be applied to when parents should teach their kids when first to ride a bike, or at what age to start letting them explore beyond the few hundred feet in either direction of the driveway. Unlike limits on the driving or drinking age – which have been thoroughly studied for years and given well-developed restrictions – technology cannot be placed into the same box of social acceptability.