U.S. pediatricians suggest parents and kids go on 'media diet'

Oct. 28, 2013 at 9:51 PM
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ORLANDO, Fla., Oct. 28 (UPI) -- U.S. pediatricians suggest parents and children go on media "diets" and become more selective in what and how long they watch television and use social media.

Dr. Marjorie Hogan, co-author of the American Academy of Pediatrics policy on the media, says while media by itself is not the leading cause of any health problem in the United States it can contribute to numerous health risks.

"A healthy approach to children's media use should both minimize potential health risks and foster appropriate and positive media use -- in other words, it should promote a healthy 'media diet,'" Hogan said in a statement. "Parents, educators and pediatricians should participate in media education, which means teaching children and adolescents how to make good choices in their media consumption."

Parents can model effective media diets to help their children learn to be selective and healthy in what they consume and take an active role in children's media education by co-viewing programs with them and discussing values.

The AAP recommends parents make a media use plan, including mealtime and bedtime curfews for media devices. Screens should be kept out of kids' bedrooms, the AAP says. Parents should limit entertainment screen time to less than 1 or 2 hours per day; in children age 2 and younger, discourage screen media exposure, the AAP says.

The AAP advocates for better and more research about how media affects youth. Excessive media use has been associated with obesity, lack of sleep, school problems, aggression and other behavior issues, the AAP says.

A recent study shows the average 8- to 10-year-old spends nearly 8 hours a day with different media, and older children and teens spend more than 11 hours per day. Kids who have a TV in their bedroom spend more time with media, about 75 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds own cellphones and nearly all teenagers use text messaging, Hogan says.

The new policy statement was published online Monday in the journal Pediatrics ahead of the November print edition, and presented at the AAP National Conference & Exhibition in Orlando, Fla.

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