014: Understanding the AAP’s new screen time guidelines


The American Academy of Pediatrics just updated its screen time recommendations – and, for the first time, we can actually see and understand the research on which the recommendations are based.  They’re a bit more nuanced than the previous versions, so join me as we walk through what the recommendations mean for parents of babies and toddlers – whether or not your children have been using screens until now.  We’ll look at the impact particularly of TV on cognitive development, obesity, and prosocial vs. antisocial behavior.

News flash: if you’re not watching and discussing shows WITH your child, he may be learning antisocial behavior from even the most innocuous of PBS programming.

This is the first in a two-part series on screen time.  Here we focus on what science says about the impacts on development.  In the second part we’ll examine what we can do about mitigating these impacts and on harnessing some of the good that digital media can do for our kids, since they are growing up in a world where the use of digital media is a fact of life.


Alade, F., Rasmussen, E., & Christy, K. (2014). The relation between television exposure and executive function among preschoolers. Developmental Psychology 50(5), 1497-1506. Full article available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/259845495_The_Relation_Between_Television_Exposure_and_Executive_Function_Among_Preschoolers

American Academy of Pediatrics (n.d.) Media and Children. Retrieved from: https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/Pages/Media-and-Children.aspx?rf=32524&nfstatus=401&nftoken=00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000&nfstatusdescription=ERROR%3a+No+local+token

Barr, R. (2013). Memory constraints on infant learning from picture books, television, and touchscreens. Child Development Perspectives 7(4), 205-210. Full article available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/259074650_Memory_Constraints_on_Infant_Learning_From_Picture_Books_Television_and_Touchscreens

Beales III, J.H., & Kulick, R. (2013). Does advertising on television cause childhood obesity? Journal of Public Policy & Marketing 32(2), 185-194.

Blankson, A.N., O’Brien, M., Leerkes, E.M., Calkins, S.D., & Marcovitch, S. (2015). Do hours spent viewing television at ages 3 and 4 predict vocabulary and executive functioning at age 5? Merrill-Palmer Quarterly 61(2), 264-289.

Bronson, P. & Merryman, A. (2009). Nurtureshock. New York: Twelve.

Christakis, D.A., Gilkerson, J., Richards, J.A., Zimmerman, F.J., Garrison, M.M., Xu, D., Gray, S., & Yapanel, U. (2009). Audible television and decreased adult words, infant vocalizations, and conversational turns. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine Journal 163(6), 554-559. Full article available at: https://sites.oxy.edu/clint/physio/article/AudibleTelevisionandDecreasedAdultWordsInfantVocalizationsandConversationalTurns.pdf

Gentile, D.A., Coyne, S., & Walsh, D.A. (2010). Media violence, physical aggression, and relational aggression in school age children: A short-term longitudinal study. Aggressive Behavior 37, 193-206. DOI: 10.1002/ab.20380

Halford, J.C.G., Gillespie, J., Brown, V., Pontin, E.E., & Dovey, T.M. (2003). Effect of television advertisements for foods on food consumption in children. Appetite 42, 221-225. DOI: 10.1016/j.appet.2003.11.006

Halford, J.C.G., Boyland, E.J., Hughes, G., Oliveira, L.P., & Dovey, T.M. (2007). Beyond-brand effect of television (TV) food advertisements/commercials on caloric intake and food choice of 5-7-year-old children. Appetite 49, 263-267. DOI: 10.1016/j.appet.2006.12.003

Healthychildren.org (n.d.). Family media plan. Retrieved from: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/media/Pages/default.aspx#home

Janz, K.F., Levy, S.M., Burns, T.L., Torner, J.C., Willing, M.C., & Warren, J.J. (2002). Fatness, physical activity, and television viewing in children during the adiposity rebound period: The Iowa bone development study. Preventive Medicine 35, 563-571. DOI: 10.1006/pmed.2002.1113

Kim, M. (2016, October 25). American Academy of Pediatrics says some screen time is OK for kids under two. Replay available at: https://ww2.kqed.org/forum/2016/10/24/american-academy-of-pediatrics-says-some-screen-time-is-ok-for-kids-under-2/

Mares, M. -L., & Acosta, E. E. (2008). Be kind to the three-legged dogs: Children’s literal interpretations of TV’s moral lessons. Media Psychology 11, 377–399, DOI: 10.1080/15213260802204355

McClure, E.R., Chentsova-Dutton, Y.E., Barr, R.F., Holochwost, S.J., & Parrott, W.G. (2015). “Facetime doesn’t count”: Video chat as an exception to media restrictions for infants and toddlers. International Journal of Child-Computer Interaction 6, 1-6. DOI: 10.1016/j.ijcci.2016.02.002

McKean, C., Mensah, F.K., Eadie, P., Bavin, E.L., Bretherton, L., Cini, E., & Reilly, S. (2015). Levers for language growth: Characteristics and predictors of language trajectories between 4 and 7 years. PLoS ONE 10(8), 1-21. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0134251

Ostrov, J.M., Gentile, D.A., & Crick, N.R. (2006). Media exposure, aggression, and prosocial behavior during early childhood: A longitudinal study. Review of Social Development 15(4), 612-627. Full article available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/222094715_Media_Exposure_Aggression_and_Prosocial_Behavior_During_Early_Childhood_A_Longitudinal_Study

Ostrov, J.M., Gentile, D.A., & Mullins, A.D. (2013). Evaluating the effect of educational media exposure on aggression in early childhood. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology 34, 38-44. DOI: 10.1016/j.appdev.2012.09.005

PBS Parents (n.d.). TV and kids under age 3. Retrieved from: http://www.pbs.org/parents/childrenandmedia/article-faq.html

Reddy, S. (2015, October 12). Pediatricians rethink screen time policy for children. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from: http://www.wsj.com/articles/pediatricians-rethink-screen-time-policy-for-children-1444671636

Viner, R.M., & Cole, T.J. (2005). Television viewing in early childhood predicts adult body mass index. The Journal of Pediatrics 147(4), 429-435. DOI: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2005.05.005

Wen, L.M., Baur, L.A., Rissel, C., Xu, H., & Simpson, J.M. (2014). Correlates of body mass index and overweight and obesity of children aged 2 years: Findings from the healthy beginning trial. Obesity 22(7), 1723-1730. DOI: 10.1002/oby.20700

Leave a Comment