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What are the recommended ages for exposure to screen and computer time?

Infants and Toddlers

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents avoid all screen media exposure for children under the age of 2.

  • Research has shown that children who are exposed to television before age 2 have lower IQ scores, reduced language skills, and are less likely to play with toys when and adult television show is on in the background.

Preschoolers

There are a number of educational computer games designed for preschool children, but the value of these programs is uncertain. Some studies show that software programs promote multitasking abilities, but they may limit a deeper understanding of concepts such as story theme, plot, and sequence.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children has endorsed computer activities for children as young as age 3 or 4. If parents choose to purchase software programs for their children, they should ask themselves, "Does this software program help create learning opportunities that did not exist without it?" When children use these programs, they should do so with adult supervision.

School Age Children

As children learn to read, more of the internet begins to open up to them. It is appropriate for children to get online with their parents beginning in first grade. Adults can guide children through recommended websites for kids. Parents’ Choice has produced a list of award winning websites for kids, including KidsHealth for Kids, Kerpoff, and PEEP and the Big Wide World.

In second and third grade, children might start using email as their reading and writing skills grow. Help your child set up an email account with the understanding that you will have access to their password and account until they are 12 years of age.

The AAP recommends no more than 1 to 2 hours a day for children older than 2 years. An alarm clock or timer can help keep track of time.

Preteens

Preteens are growing in independence, and their knowledge of technology and the computer is surpassing that of their parents. They are likely to use computers for social reasons, thus, they will benefit from more discussions about the risks of internet use. Preteens will need to be reminded about the information they can provide over the internet.

Children’s Privacy Protection Act, protects the privacy of children under the age of 13. Thus, as parents consider how much supervision to provide to children, some experts recommend the privacy act as a guideline.

Teens

Teens are gaining autonomy and should have increased privacy. The AAP recommends that teens have few limitations on their computer use, however, parents should use their discretion based on their intuition regarding their child’s maturity and readiness. It is important to give them their space BUT with the full commitment that if you ask them to open their email for you to read what they have there, they will do it.

Parents should continue to engage in conversation with their teen abut what they are doing online. If they are busy on social networking sites, such as Facebook, invite your teen to help you create a profile (you should do most of the work), "friend" your teen, and spend a little time getting to know their friends and their online activity. Send text messages to them (more than just "hi") and chat with them on IM. Become comfortable with their online world and never stop communicating!

Please note: The minimum age required by MySpace and Facebook to create a profile is 13 years of age.

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics "The Internet and Your Family"; Center on Media and Child Health "Media and Your Child"; Liliana Escobar-Chaves "Raising Kids in the Wired World"; National Association for the Education Young Children "Common Technology Myths"; Parents' Choice "Parents' Choice Award Winning Websites"