Some of the most frequent questions we get in our pediatrics department here at Preferred Medical Group is about kids and screen time. Should my kid play games on my phone? How long can my kid use a tablet? What about Skyping with Grandma and Grandpa? It can be tough to navigate these challenges. Technology constantly changes, and it can seem like doctor recommendations are not consistent.
In this interview Dr. Chandra, lead pediatrician at Preferred Medical Group sat down with NBC’s Anika Allen in Columbus, Georgia, to talk about the very latest recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics regarding kids and screentime. Enjoy!
Here’s a transcript of the interview.
Anika Allen: Well, being a producer of this show, I see interesting stories. One of those stories I saw, it basically said that kids cannot hold Crayons in preschool, because they’re always holding tablets or smartphones and it just led me to think about the other effects that it can have on the brain. So today, we have Dr. Chandra from the preferred medical group, and she is a pediatrician and she is going to explain some things about screen time with children. So one of the first question I have is, Does constant screen time or children being in front of a screen, tablet, smartphone, does it affect the brain in any way?
Dr. Chandra: Absolutely. It’s a great question and very very relevant to what we’re all dealing with today. I think the majority of families that I see are asking this question and dealing with how much is okay and if okay, what is okay. Because it’s been a big debate over the last eight to 10 years. So I think it’s okay in moderation with some caveats attached to it. The American Academy of Pediatrics actually came up with a statement on this about three years ago. It’s interesting that this set of recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics is more relaxed than their previous one.
Dr. Chandra: Essentially, the message is, “Yes, it is okay, but in moderation.” And they say, “Under 18 months of age, we really don’t encourage it though.” If a child is doing a video chat with a grandparent that lives far away or talking to a parent that’s deployed, it’s okay. We always encourage the parent to co-watch with the child so they can reteach whatever they saw on screen. 18 to 24 months again, they’re saying, “Be cautious and just watch high content programming. Have the parent watch along with them.” Two to five years, they’re saying, “high content programming that is interactive, it’s not violent, it’s pro-social, up to an hour a day.” And five and above, you can go up to two hours a day.
Dr. Chandra: Now we know that in the teenagers, of course, they use it just-
Anika Allen: All day.
Dr. Chandra: All day.
Anika Allen: Wake up go to sleep.
Dr. Chandra: And that’s when the ill effects come in. And I think as long as it’s used in a controlled way, we can really use it to our advantage.
Anika Allen: Okay. So those games that we see, like ABC Mouse, those type of games, are they better for children probably like five and up? Because sometimes, I’ve seen people with two years olds and they’re like, “Here.” Like if you’re on a plane, if you’re in a grocery store and they’re like, “Mom, mom, mom.” And they just give them the smartphone or they just give them the tablet. How can we gauge? Like we give them the tablet, but as far as moderation, what programs should we pick for our children? Should we stick those ABC Mouse programs?
Dr. Chandra: I’d say not necessarily, because we can use media both as a tool for teaching our kids, because some of the apps are fantastic. They’re so creative. The way we teach ABC is different from the way the app teaches it, because it’s fun and interactive as opposed to rote learning. It can not replace the human interaction. I think that is the big message. Children obviously learn best when they’re interacting with human beings and they’re social-emotional well-being and learning.
Dr. Chandra: We can use it as an adjunct. We can use in a stressed time. Your child is on the plane howling, rather than everybody hear a howling baby, you’d give them an app for a little while, but it can not replace the human interaction.
Anika Allen: Okay. Any alterative? Like when I was younger it was kind of more so Legos, go out and play. Anika you have to go outside. I used to build mud pies. I know that’s really weird, but those were things that kind of interested me and now it’s kind of just more so kids that are like six on Instagram. It’s so much stuff that could be good, but it’s also kind of negative on there.
Dr. Chandra: Absolutely. The statistics show that actually by one year of age 94% of baby have held a handheld device. We are living in the digital age. I think it’s here to stay, but we have to use it in a very controlled manner and in short amounts. I don’t think it’s okay to leave a baby for two hours while mom is watching TV, but I think it’s okay for mom to cook dinner for 10 minutes while baby is watching an app. In controlled amounts and in a supervised manner.
Anika Allen: Should we like… Toys R Us is closed, but should we go to Amazon and try to redirect their attention? Like if they keep begging. Like after the two hours if they still want the tablet should we do like Legos or those types of games?
Dr. Chandra: Absolutely. Kids learn best when they’re hands on, so touching, feeling things. They’re also more creative when they have free play. That is the one negative about using digital stuff, that kids are losing their creativity. It’s a pushed strategy to entertain them rather than a kid like yourself at your age go out in the yard and look at some sticks and stones and trees and bushes and see how I am going to entertain myself today. Yes, we do not want to kill the creativity of the children and we do not want to take away the human interaction, but it’s okay to use the apps in small doses and in very stimulating ways.
Anika Allen: Thank you for coming on. I think everybody needed this. My best friends, me, everybody, Aunts, Uncles, because I so often just… You just want to give them the tablet. Like, “Please just-“
Dr. Chandra: It’s the easy option.
Anika Allen: It’s the easiest option. It could be the cheapest option depending on how you use it and when you get it. Thank you for coming on and discussing and I can’t wait for you to come back for all the other topics I have swirling around in my brain.
Dr. Chandra: Wonderful. Thank you for having me.
Anika Allen: No problem.
Dr. Chandra: Bye Bye.
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Preferred Medical Group is currently accepting new pediatric patients at our offices in Columbus / Phenix City, Fort Mitchell, and Opelika. In addition to sick and wellness visits, we offer Behavioral Health counselling and ADHD assessments for children. If you have any questions please feel free to contact us directly or schedule your next visit through our convenient online appointment system.