The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has been closely monitoring the effects of various kinds of media on both children and teens for over 30 years now.
With the world becoming more and more digital today, the academy is starting to think that giving children “screen time” may not be a bad thing so long as parents or guardians impose limits, among other things.
During an invitation-only event in Rosemont, Illinois last May the AAP held the Growing Up Digital: Media Research Symposium. Here, leading pediatricians, educators and researchers in various fields discussed how various kinds of digital media has been affecting children physically, cognitively, emotionally and socially. Specifically, three areas interest the group: education and early learning; health and development impact as well as societal impact and digital citizenship.
When it comes to early learning, panelists have found that “optimized media” can serve as an important educational tool for children over the age of two. Moreover, experts say this can also help bridge the learning “achievement gap” that is commonly seen among low-income, disadvantaged and underserved populations. On the other hand, experts also found that personal live interactions benefit children from 12 to 24 months of age better. Children at these age may learn words though the help of a video program, but live interaction is still found to be “far superior.” Moreover, while there are as much as 80,000 apps currently labeled as “educational,” the AAP admits that not much research has been done to look into the apps’ quality. Parents must have access to information that will allow them to asses if an app can provide meaningful learning to their child.
Meanwhile, University of California’s Center for Digital Games Research Director Debra Lieberman says that some games may actually benefit children well. In fact, it can improve their learning abilities as well as skills, self-concepts, attitude and behavior change. Moreover, some games can also become a platform for “safe experimentation” and can even promote discussion, which can strengthen relationships and social support.
At the same, it was also found the digital gaming has some health benefits including improving one’s mood and reducing stress. Furthermore, digital games can offer the same play opportunities that non-digital games do, including using one’s imagination, identifying goals, achieving mastery, creating a sense of control and developing a sense of community. Nonetheless, panelists have also noted that media violence may contribute to aggressive behavior.
Meanwhile, Harvard University’s Center on Media and Child Health Director Michael Rich believes that social media has now become “a fertile ground for teen development.” This is because online experiences allow them to build connections and community while fostering their creativity. What parents need to do is to teach their teens to behave appropriately online and offline. Experts also warn that it is important to set limits for children, no matter what age. Moreover, it is recommended that families enjoy digital media together and also set aside time to spend time together offline during mealtimes and before going to bed.
Digital media can, indeed, be beneficial to your children. But experts warn that it has a negative impact on your child’s ability to sleep. This is because light from something like a television actually disrupts melatonin secretion and in turn, may delay the onset of sleep in your child, leading to sleep deprivation.