The American Academy of Pediatrics has released new guidelines for childhood media usage and they’re mostly common sense. They suggest things like not relying solely on devices to calm children down, lest they develop difficulties managing their emotions. They say parents should vet educational content carefully, since many such applications don’t have any real educational content.

“We have to be realistic about the ubiquity of digital media use. It is becoming ingrained in our culture and daily life. For this reason, it is even more important that parents help their children understand the healthy ways to use media from the earliest ages,” says Jenny Radesky, M.D., one of the lead authors of the AAP statement on media usage.

It’s crucial that parents interact with their toddlers during device use and help them apply what they’re seeing on the screen to the rest of their lives.

There are ways to use devices in a way that enhances family connections. “Video chatting with grandparents, watching science videos together, putting on streaming music and dancing together, looking up new recipes or craft ideas, taking pictures and videos to show each other, having a family movie night … these are just a few ways media can be used as a tool to support family connection,” Radesky says.

More interesting, though, is the recommendation to turn off devices when not in use and to end use at least an hour before bed. They recommend limiting device use to an hour or so a day for kids age 18 to 36 months. The AAP also says children under age 2 should not be using tablets, phones, or other devices at all.

Research suggests that overuse of digital media could get in the way of toddlers’ brain development. Early childhood is a time of rapid brain development, when kids learn about building relationships and managing emotions. They also need time to play and sleep in order to enhance that development.

What’s interesting about these recommendations is that they really aren’t based on any solid information. The AAP defaulted to a “we don’t know enough, so don’t overexpose your kids” argument. That’s because there still isn’t a lot of useful research on the effects digital media or device usage can have on young children.

What do you think? Does digital media usage harm young kids? Does it help them learn how to relate to the world around them? Let’s talk about it in the comments.