Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) revised its recommendations on children’s media use, pulling away from its earlier ban on screen time for any child under two years of age. The new guidelines, instead, suggest that children as young as 18 months may benefit from high-quality educational media, such as that provided by PBS KIDS. The AAP still recommends limiting screen time to one hour per day for children under five.
Further, the AAP recommends that caregivers co-view media with their young children, in order to help kids understand what they are seeing on the screen. “Some media can have educational value for children starting at around 18 months of age, but it’s critically important that this be high-quality programming, such as the content offered by Sesame Workshop and PBS,” stated the AAP, in a press release to announce the new policy guidelines.
Officially released on Oct. 21 in Pediatrics, the official journal of the AAP, the full “Media and Young Minds” report outlines several recommendations for how families can best manage their young children’s media use.
The report repeatedly notes the advantages of exposing children to “high-quality” programming and resources as preferable to other options with less educational foundation.
The AAP authors note, for example, that “well-designed television programs, such as Sesame Street, can improve cognitive, literacy and social outcomes for children 3 to 5 years of age.” The report goes on to say that “evaluations of apps from Sesame Workshop and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) have also shown efficacy in teaching literacy skills to preschoolers. Unfortunately most [other] apps parents find under the ‘educational’ category in app stores have no such evidence of efficacy, target only rote academic skills, are not based on established curricula, and use little or no input from developmental specialists or educators.”
In contrast, as noted in a 2016 PBS KIDS annual report, when developing its content, PBS KIDS works with education advisors and conducts extensive research to ensure that its programming, games and activities are developmentally appropriate and effective in helping kids learn.
The AAP’s recent report emphasizes that young children should spend the majority of their time in unplugged, unstructured and social play. Yet it concludes by recommending that pediatricians and parents guide young children toward “quality resources” – PBS KIDS and Sesame Workshop are cited by the AAP here, again, as the preferred sources – when they are seeking high-quality, curriculum-based media options to enhance their children’s learning and development.
“What’s most important is that parents be their child’s ‘media mentor,’” said Jenny Radesky, MD, FAAP, lead author of the “Media and Young Minds” report. “That means teaching them how to use [media] as a tool to create, connect and learn.”
Research has shown that PBS KIDS’ cross-platform content helps increase children’s math and literacy scores, improves their school readiness and fosters interest in learning. PBS KIDS also increases parent and teacher engagement in supporting children’s learning. For more information, go to PBSKIDS.org.