American Academy of Pediatrics Issues Recommendations On #ScreenTime and Exposure to Cell Phones

The American Academy of Pediatrics has recently issued two new sets of recommendations on media use for children.  At first glance, popular news headlines suggest elimination of the previous “no screens before age two” recommendations (see NPR’s American Academy of Pediatrics Lifts ‘No Screens Under 2’ Rule and KQED’s American Academy of Pediatrics Says Some Screen Time is Okay for Kids Under Two). However, close examination of the new guidelines reveal nuanced suggestions that maintain a primary focus on limiting tech usage. What appear to be obscured in public discussions are the same AAP organization’s recommendations issued just months earlier, specifically encouraging parents to reduce children’s exposures to cell phone radiation.

For ease of access, both sets of recommendations are provided in this post.

“Healthy Digital Media Use Habits for Babies, Toddlers & Preschoolers
Media in all forms, including TV, computers, and smartphones can affect how children feel, learn, think, and behave. However, parents (you) are still the most important influence.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) encourages you to help your children develop healthy media use habits early on. Read on to learn more.”…

AAP Media Use Guidelines for Young Children - Chart
“What About Apps and Digital Books?

Most apps advertised as “educational” aren’t proven to be effective and they don’t encourage co-viewing or co-play that help young children learn. Also, most educational apps target rote skills, such as ABCs and shapes. These skills are only one part of school readiness. The skills young children need to learn for success in school (and life) such as impulse control, managing emotions, and creative, flexible thinking, are best learned through unstructured and social play with family and friends in the real world.

Digital books (“eBooks”) that have lots of sound and visual effects can sometimes distract children, who then “miss the story” and don’t learn as well as they would from a print book.

If you plan to read e-books to your children:

  • Choose e-books that don’t have too many “bells and whistles.”
  • Read e-books with your children (parent-child interaction around books is one of the most important factors to a child’s success at reading and literacy).

Why Limit Media Use?
Overuse of digital media may place your child at risk of:

  • Not enough sleep. Young children with more media exposure or who have a TV,computer, or mobile device in their bedrooms sleep less and fall asleep later at night. Even babies can be overstimulated by screens and miss the sleep they need to grow.
  • Delays in learning and social skills. Children who watch too much TV in infancy and preschool years can show delays in attention, thinking, language, and social skills. One of the reasons for the delays could be because they interact less with parents and family. Parents who keep the TV on or focus on their own digital media miss precious opportunities to interact with their children and help them learn. See Parents of Young Children: Put Down Your Smartphones.
  • Obesity. Heavy media use during preschool years is linked to weight gain and risk of childhood obesity. Food advertising and snacking while watching TV can promote obesity. Also, children who overuse media are less apt to be active with healthy, physical play.
  • Behavior problems. Violent content on TV and screens can contribute to behavior problems in children, either because they are scared and confused by what they see, or they try to mimic on-screen characters.

Other Tips for Parents, Families, and Caregivers

  • Do not feel pressured to introduce technology early. Media interfaces are intuitive and children can learn quickly.
  • Monitor children’s media. For example, know what apps are used or downloaded.Test apps before your child uses them, play together, and ask your child what he or she thinks about the app.
  • Turn off TVs and other devices when not in use. Background media can distract from parent-child interaction and child play, which are both very important in child language and social-emotional development.
  • Keep bedrooms, mealtimes, and parent-child playtimes screen free and unplugged for children and parents. Turn off phones or set to “do not disturb”during these times.
  • Avoid exposure to devices or screens 1 hour before bedtime. Remove devices from bedrooms before bed.
  • Avoid using media as the only way to calm your children. Although media maybe used to soothe children, such as during a medical procedure or airplane flight,using media as a strategy to calm could lead to problems with a child’s own ability with limit setting and managing emotions. Ask your child’s doctor for help if needed.
  • Develop a Family Media Use plan for you and your family.
  • Remember that your opinion counts. TV, video-game, and other media producers, and sponsors pay attention to the views of the public. Let a TV station know if you like a program, or contact video game companies if the content is too violent. For more information, visit the Federal Communications Commission(FCC) website.
  • Encourage your school and community to advocate for better media programs and for healthier habits. For example, organize a “Screen-Free Week” in your town with other parents, teachers, and neighbors.

Additional Information from HealthyChildren.org (American Academy of Pediatrics)

The related recommendations below on cell phone use were issued by the same American Academy of Pediatrics, yet appear to be receiving much less media attention.  American Academy of Pediatrics Issues New Recommendations to “Reduce Exposure to Cell Phones”: Nation’s largest group of children’s doctors responds to new government study linking cell phone radiation to cancer.

“In response to the U.S. National Toxicology Program study results finding exposure to wireless radiation significantly increased the prevalence of highly malignant heart and brain cancers in rodents, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued specific recommendations to reduce wireless cell phone exposure and updated their online resources for parents concerning cell phones and wireless devices.

“They’re not toys. They have radiation that is emitted from them and the more we can keep it off the body and use (the phone) in other ways, it will be safer,” said Jennifer A. Lowry, M.D., FAACT, FAAP, chair of the AAP Council on Environmental Health Executive Committee in the AAPs press release on the NTP Study Results.

“The findings of brain tumors (gliomas) and malignant schwann cell tumors of the heart in the NTP study, as well as DNA damage in brain cells, present a major public health concern because these occurred in the same types of cells that have been reported to develop into tumors in epidemiological studies of adult cell phone users,” stated Ronald L. Melnick, PhD, the National Institutes of Health toxicologist who lead the NTP study design and senior advisor to the Environmental Health Trust. “For children the cancer risks may be greater than that for adults because of greater penetration and absorption of cell phone radiation in the brains of children and because the developing nervous system of children is more susceptible to tissue-damaging agents. Based on this new information, regulatory agencies need to make strong recommendations for consumers to take precautionary measures and avoid close contact with their cell phones, and especially limit or avoid use of cell phones by children.”

The AAP has updated their Healthy Children Webpage on Cell Phones entitled Cell Phone Radiation & Children’s Health: What Parents Need to Know. The webpage reiterated children’s unique vulnerability to cell phone radiation stating, “Another problem is that the cell phone radiation test used by the FCC is based on the devices’ possible effect on large adults—not children. Children’s skulls are thinner and can absorb more radiation.”

The AAP issued the following cell phone safety tips specifically to reduce exposure to wireless radiation:

  • “Use text messaging when possible, and use cell phones in speaker mode or with the use of hands-free kits.
  • When talking on the cell phone, try holding it an inch or more away from your head.
  • Make only short or essential calls on cell phones.
  • Avoid carrying your phone against the body like in a pocket, sock, or bra. Cell phone manufacturers can’t guarantee that the amount of radiation you’re absorbing will be at a safe level.
  • Do not talk on the phone or text while driving. This increases the risk of automobile crashes.
  • Exercise caution when using a phone or texting while walking or performing other activities. “Distracted walking” injuries are also on the rise.
  • If you plan to watch a movie on your device, download it first, then switch to airplane mode while you watch in order to avoid unnecessary radiation exposure.
  • Keep an eye on your signal strength (i.e. how many bars you have). The weaker your cell signal, the harder your phone has to work and the more radiation it gives off. It’s better to wait until you have a stronger signal before using your device.
  • Avoid making calls in cars, elevators, trains, and buses. The cell phone works harder to get a signal through metal, so the power level increases.
  • Remember that cell phones are not toys or teething items.

Even though the cell phone manual contains specific instructions that say do not carry the phone next to the body, the US government does not publicize this information nor mandate companies inform the public, leaving most people unaware of potential hazards, unwittingly allowing their young children to play with them like toys,” stated Devra Davis MPH, PhD, president of the Environmental Health Trust pointing to the Berkeley Cell Phone Right To Know Ordinance being challenged in court this month.

In 2012, the AAP published Pediatric Environmental Health, 3rd Edition recommending, “exposures can be reduced by encouraging children to use text messaging when possible, make only short and essential calls on cellular phones, use hands free kits and wired headsets and maintain the cellular phone an inch or more away from the head.”

Since 2012, the AAP has supported the Federal Cell Phone Right to Know Legislation and has written letters to the FCC calling on the federal government to review and strengthen radiation standards for wireless devices in an effort to protect children’s health.

Links
AAP Healthy Children.org Cell Phone Radiation & Children’s Health: What Parents Need to Know

AAP responds to study showing link between cell phone radiation, tumors in rats May 27, 2016

2012 AAP Letter in Support of the Cell Phone Right to Know Act

2013 AAP Letter to the FCC calling for a review of RF guidelines

From: http://www.releasewire.com/press-releases/american-academy-of-pediatrics-issues-new-recommendations-to-reduce-exposure-to-cell-phones-726805.htm 

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For readers interested in additional updates and research on screen time, development, learning, and health, see here.

 

 

7 thoughts on “American Academy of Pediatrics Issues Recommendations On #ScreenTime and Exposure to Cell Phones

  1. The mention that digital books might have sounds and movement distracting to young children is interesting to me in that I find, as a 59 year old woman and a proficient reader, that reading on websites or on facebook or on any platform which allows advertisements and visuals is not only distracting, but creates a sort of mental dizziness whenever I try to concentrate. My eyes always see the additional information, especially when it is moving, and even if it is only peripheral. I can’t imagine what the human race is doing to our brains with this much excessive digital “input.”

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  3. I am so glad you mentioned the fact that they obscured the cell phone radiation recommendations! I do public health work on the subject of tech addiction and the AAP recommendation have been both a source of support and frustration. Helping people “stay human” in this digital age is full-time work. Thank you for your part!
    Galilee Carlisle, M.Ed.
    Heads Up! for Public Health

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  5. Pingback: I Am Done – I Hope Public Education is Not | tultican

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