There’s a Reason Children Don’t Make Their Own Rules Should media guidelines for children change because digital media is more present in today’s society? (by Amanda Harrelson)

amanda.harrelson-20160309_223609The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is the agency in charge of the guidelines we all follow to keep our children healthy and growing safely. Not only that, but it is what law makers use to pass laws involving the safety and future of our children. Seems like an important and influential group, right? Why then are they changing the guidelines on the amount of time that is safe for children based on the fact that screen time is everywhere these days?

Articles about this issue claim that the ubiquitous nature of digital media makes it unrealistic to enforce the current standards. One went so far as to say “At this point, worrying about exposure to screens is like worrying about exposure to agriculture, indoor plumbing, the written word, or automobiles”              (Shapiro ). So, not only is 2 hours a day unreasonable to limit older children and saying no screen time until a child turns 2 is impossible, but because technology is everywhere we shouldn’t worry about it at all. Essentially we are changing the guidelines not because of what is good for children, or what children should be allowed to do for their development, but because screens have become a way of life. Is it reasonable to change rules set by scientific research on what will harm a child’s brain because that activity has become something every person is doing? Of course not. “Suggesting that guidelines need to be changed because the policy is out of touch is akin to increasing the healthy amount of sugar kids can eat because people still give their kids junk food” (Johnson). Just because popularity of something changes, doesn’t mean it becomes better for us. We have nutrition guidelines based on things that are good for kids, not based on what they are being given. Recommendations are there to provide a guide for what is appropriate for parents who want to know. How can they simply decide that since everyone is doing it, it needs to be recommended for kids as well?

As parents and loved ones who care about children in our lives we need to pay more attention to what is going on. As the oldest of 8 siblings and having 3 nieces and nephews, I have seen first-hand the addiction kids these days have for digital media. They are all average children, which means they fit the statistic: spending an average of 7 hours on digital media a day that isn’t school related. That is what is acceptable to society right now. Their parents don’t see anything wrong with this. Nothing wrong with kids who are constantly online or on tablets taking in whatever media they choose with no limitations or rules to govern their time. How is that acceptable? It won’t change unless people stand up and change it. If the digital media was harmful to kid’s brains before, how has the fact that screens are more readily available changed that fact? That’s like saying that junk food is bad for us, but since it’s all we eat we should tweak the nutrition guidelines to say that it’s fine. It doesn’t make any sense, and neither does the AAP changing their guidelines now.

Until the new recommendations come out, the AAP has released some tips to get involved in your child’s digital life in order to make sure they aren’t being exposed to anything they shouldn’t be. Those include:

  • Be aware of what your child is doing
  • Set limits and encourage playtime
  • Participate as a family
  • Be a role model
  • (Children)

No matter what the guidelines say, be mindful of how much time your children are spending on digital media. As parents and caregivers we have a responsibility to teach them what is good for them, and just like the current guidelines stipulate, that isn’t letting life pass them by while they play games, watch television, or immerse themselves in the latest YouTube video. Set limits based on what is healthy for your child and not what they think you should let them do. Pay attention to what they are doing online, and encourage them to play outside, express creativity in play and crafts, and to use their imaginations while they still can. They have all their lives to become social media and digital communications experts. So while our children are still young encourage them to play and create, and limit the digital addictions they are exposed to.



“Children And Media – Tips For Parents.” Children And Media – Tips For Parents. American Academy of Pediatrics, 2015. Web. 7 Mar. 2016.

The AAP uses this article to give tips to parents on how to navigate digital media use no matter what guidelines end up being recommended in 2016. They discuss in detail many different options parents have to keep kids on track with media usage. They detail not only the mentioned tips but more in-depth advice on watching kids, getting involved in their digital life, and how to lead by example and be a role model for them. This doesn’t necessarily lend itself to whether or not the guidelines change, but does give parents a way to get involved whether they choose to follow the new guidelines, the old guidelines, or any mixture of what truly works for their children’s health.

Johnson, Chandra. “What Changing Screen Time Research Means for Young Kids and Families.” What Changing Screen Time Research Means for Young Kids and Families. Deseret News National, 14 Nov. 2015. Web. 7 Mar. 2016.

This article includes quotes from members of the AAP who are working on the guidelines. The author goes into how prevalent digital media is for children in our society, and why the AAP felt they needed to revise the guidelines now that digital media has run so rampant in our society. There are numerous direct quotes from influential people from the AAP and the author discussed why parents need to be careful with exposing their children to digital media in all forms. This article gives the argument against changing the guidelines and uses facts and quotes from pertinent individuals to make the author’s point. It provides things that the AAP members have actually said about the process on both sides.

Shapiro, Jordan. “The American Academy of Pediatrics Just Changed Their Guidelines on Kids and Screen Time.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 30 Sept. 2015. Web. 7 Mar. 2016.

Shapiro’s article discusses his reasoning for believing that digital media isn’t something parents should worry about limiting. He explains his own quotes in depth and goes into detail about comparing digital media in our society to agriculture and automobiles (as far as being afraid of exposing our children to them). His point of view is that children don’t need to be limited in their usage, but he does also go into detail about how parents should pay attention to what their children are doing and why. This author gave the argument for changing the guidelines, in fact seemingly making the argument for no guidelines at all. This gives the opposite argument to mine, giving Shapiro’s article a sort of devil’s advocate voice in my piece or writing. It is important to be completely informed before making a decision on an issue, and Shapiro’s article gives the other side of information.



  1. Alexa Fery

    First of all, great topic choice!! I think this topic is very controversial because as you stated, technology is everywhere we look and everywhere we go and some people think that means it’s okay to let it become a way of life. I kinda of had a hard time understanding your title but as I read more of your blog I knew exactly what your point was. My favorite paragraph was the 2nd because it has so much good information in it. The quote in the beginning of the 2nd paragraph when it compares technology with agriculture, automobiles and such, made me even more invested in your blog! I think that quote is absolutely crazy! Even though I’m not a mother myself, I always tell myself that I’m not going to let my child be addicted to a screen, as most are these days. I can see how it would be easy to let them fall into it though.

    Overall, I don’t really have anything negative to say. I think your topic is very interesting and you did a great job with using evidence to support your claim. I thought your blog was very well written and well organized and I enjoyed reading it!

    -Alexa Fery

    • Amanda Harrelson

      Thanks Alexa! Yeah, the title was formatted differently in my document submission, clearly it didn’t translate well here. Glad you were able to understand in the end though. Thanks for your sweet comments.

  2. brian gottlieb

    I had no idea they were changing the recommendations about screen time. How interesting! I read the Shapiro article, and was unimpressed by his “screens are everywhere, so you might as well give up” argument, but you used a really good quote demonstrating that point of view. I doubt kids became obsessed with flushing toilets when they got indoor plumbing! I feel that the way you present his argument (in the section “So not only is … but because screen have become a way of life”) ties it too strongly to the AAP’s new guidelines. Their changes are clearly a response to the increased use of screens, and changes in the reality of digital media, but it sounds like they are coming up with a better paradigm for setting boundaries and teaching kids to balance things in their life, rather than accepting that 7 hours is the new 2.
    The guidelines you mention sound good. It sounds like the AAP is recommending “good parenting” over specific time limits. Its kind of a bummer that the new recommendations weren’t yet available, as it leaves your article with a bit of a speculative tone about what they might say.
    In any case, your arguments are sound; if endless hours of TV was bad before, it probably still is now. There might be some technological difference that makes it safer (LEDs don’t emit the same radiation as the older CRT TVs, which might not be as hard on the eyes), but an average of 7 hours of screens outside of school is shocking! That’s pretty much constantly looking at the phone from the moment they get out of school until bedtime, and maybe an hour before school. It sounds like Shapiro got it backwards: we should be more worried about screens now that they are so prevalent! Its amazing how many parents use screens as a babysitter. Your suggestions of how to deal with this are spot on.

    • Amanda Harrelson

      You actually came up with one way it may not be so bad that I hadn’t even run across before! Very smart. Thank you for your honest review. You are absolutely correct, without the guidelines all I was able to really do is speculate using the things members of the AAP have said. Apparently they are planning to release the reformed ones in October 2016. I took found Shapiro’s article to be….less than impressive. In fact, I was shocked to learn the man has a Ph.D and writes regularly for Forbes. I think I will wait to concretely decide my own views on the changing guidelines until they are actually released, but I’m learning towards what you said: we need to worry.

      Thanks so much for reviewing.

      • brian gottlieb

        You’re welcome. I enjoyed your post.
        Shapiro’s article might just be trolling. It is pretty absurd. Maybe he writes for ratings and shock value. Or maybe it was supposed to be funny. I mean, if screens aren’t actually harmful, and kids were spending hours doing enriching or educational things with them, it might not be so bad. Like the written word. A kid reading Harry Potter cover to cover isn’t a bad thing, is it? Is reading it on a Kindle worse? Maybe not, but that’s not what I see happening with my nieces and nephews and iphones. Those addiction-triggering, reward based games (candy crush and virtual pets are pretty obvious, but almost every app I see uses some of those tricks) are beyond unfair to use on kids (even adults, really. we’re headed for Idiocracy). I’m sure there will be studies of how the outbreak of screens contributed to some major new psychological ailment affecting Millenials as adults.

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