The rise of new media requires new rules for monitoring kids' screen time.
"There¹s plenty of positive kids¹ media programming, but the worry is around the possible harmful effects of negative media messages and images on children," said Deana Hildebrand, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension child nutrition specialist.
To help parents combat those potentially negative influences of media, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a new recommendation of limiting total screen entertainment time for children ages 2 and older to two hours or less daily.
The guideline not only applies to television, but also to devices such as laptops, tablets and cell phones, as well as social media platforms.
The AAP also discouraged exposing children 2 and under to screen media.
The recommendations appeared in the medical journal Pediatrics and were presented at the AAP's annual National Conference and Exhibition.
Television still rules the media roost for kids and youth, but about a third of television programming is actually viewed on computers, tablets and cell phones, according to research cited by the AAP.
The AAP also reported 84 percent of kids and teens have Internet access, about 75 percent of 12- to 17-year olds have cell phones and approximately 88 percent of teens text message.
"Given the links between media and sex, violence, alcohol and substance abuse, obesity and other risky, unhealthy behaviors for kids, it's important for parents to set some ground rules related to their children's use of media," said Hildebrand.
One of the easiest ways to begin trimming screen time is to keep the television and Internet-connected devices out of the kids' bedroom.
Beyond that, make mealtimes no-media times by turning off the television and setting aside cell phones and other devices during the meal.
Mealtimes are good opportunities for family members to share with each other, Hildebrand said, and research indicates families who break bread together tend to eat more nutritiously compared to families that eat separately.
Further, the AAP recommends establishing a bedtime curfew for all media devices, including cell phones, and enforcing reasonable guidelines for using cell phones, texting, the Internet and social media sites.
"Seeing adults modeling positive behavior increases the likelihood kids will follow suit, so encourage the whole family to limit their screen time," Hildebrand said. "At the same time, take the opportunity to find fun ways to increase everyone's physical activity."
When kids are watching television or using other media devices, the AAP encourages parents to closely monitor the content and be aware of all websites and social media sites they may be accessing.
"Take time to view programs and movies with your kids then talk with them about what you all saw and how it relates to the family's values and beliefs," Hildebrand said.
For more information on limiting screen time for kids, visit your local county Extension agent and visit the AAP website at www.aap.org.