Nov. 04--A mom of three girls, Susan Powe was cleaning the kitchen one evening when she heard a text notification on her daughter's iPhone.
It was 10 p.m., and her 13-year-old had already been asleep for an hour.
The rule in Powe's house is that her daughter's iPhone stays plugged in the kitchen unless it is one of the three times she is allowed to use it throughout the day. Doing this, especially at night, Powe said, "allows (her) to receive the sleep that she needs."
New media recommendations
A new policy from the American Academy of Pediatrics is aimed at all kids, including those who use smartphones, computers and other Internet-connected devices. It expands the academy's longstanding recommendations on banning televisions from children's and teens' bedrooms and limiting entertainment screen time to no more than two hours daily.
Under the new policy, those two hours include using the Internet for entertainment, including Facebook, Twitter, TV and movies. Online homework is an exception.
A pediatricians group says parents need to know that unrestricted media use can have serious consequences. That it has been linked with violence, cyberbullying, school woes, obesity, lack of sleep and a host of other problems. It's not a major cause of these troubles, but "many parents are clueless" about the profound impact media exposure can have on their children, said Victor Strasburger, lead author of the new American Academy of Pediatrics policy.
Philip Hannam of Montgomery is a single father with three middle school-aged children. None of them, he said, have cellphones, and there are no screens in their bedrooms. The children have Nook readers, he said, and there is one desktop family computer in the kitchen area with Internet they use with permission. The family has one small flat-screen television in the living room with no cable or satellite -- they use the Roku device to access Netflix and other content available online.
"I have been amazed as a parent as to how much time I have to spend protecting my children from a profoundly intrusive culture," Hannam said. "And I am not talking about isolating them nor just keeping out pornography or violence. The culture has no sense of boundaries. It seems like it does with better rules about things like bullying or hateful language. But even these displays of extreme rule-making exist because of the void in basic human decency."
Other than sedentary activity that would be correlated with screen time, the policy also is trying to limit children's exposure to media advertisements for different types of less nutritious foods such as "junk food," said Sheena Gregg, president of the Alabama Obesity Task Force and assistant director of the department of health promotion and wellness at the University of Alabama.
What Gregg finds with the college population is if they do not have behaviors instilled in them from their childhood, they won't have it when they leave the house for college. It is important to instill habits into teens now, she said.
The policy statement cites a 2010 report that found U.S. children ages 8 to 18 spend an average of more than seven hours daily using some kind of entertainment media. Many kids now watch TV online and many send text messages from their bedrooms after "lights out," including sexually explicit images by cellphone or Internet, yet few parents set rules about media use, the policy says.
The policy notes that three-quarters of kids ages 12 to 17 own cellphones; nearly all teens send text messages, and many younger kids have phones giving them online access.
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