By: Lindsay Tanner
The recommendations are bound to prompt eye-rolling and LOLs from many teens but an influential pediatricians group says parents need to know that unrestricted media use can have serious consequences.
It's 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 Dr. Victor Strasburger, lead author of the new American Academy of Pediatrics policy
"This is the 21st century and they need to get with it," said Strasburger, a University of New Mexico adolescent medicine specialist.
The policy 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.
The policy statement cites a 2010 report that found U.S. children aged 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.
"I guarantee you that if you have a 14-year-old boy and he has an Internet connection in his bedroom, he is looking at pornography," Strasburger said.
The policy notes that three-quarters of kids aged 12 to 17 own cellphones; nearly all teens send text messages, and many younger kids have phones giving them online access.
"Young people now spend more time with media than they do in school — it is the leading activity for children and teenagers other than sleeping" the policy says.
Mark Risinger, 16, of Glenview, Ill., is allowed to use his smartphone and laptop in his room, and says he spends about four hours daily on the Internet doing homework, using Facebook and YouTube and watching movies.
He said a two-hour Internet time limit "would be catastrophic" and that kids won't follow the advice, "they'll just find a way to get around it."
Strasburger said he realizes many kids will scoff at advice from pediatricians — or any adults.
"After all, they're the experts! We're media-Neanderthals to them," he said. But he said he hopes it will lead to more limits from parents and schools, and more government research on the effects of media.
The policy was published online Monday in the journal Pediatrics. It comes two weeks after police arrested two Florida girls accused of bullying a classmate who committed suicide. Police say one of the girls recently boasted online about the bullying and the local sheriff questioned why the suspects' parents hadn't restricted their Internet use.
Mark's mom, Amy Risinger, said she agrees with restricting kids' time on social media but that deciding on other media limits should be up to parents.
"I think some children have a greater maturity level and you don't need to be quite as strict with them," said Risinger, who runs a communications consulting firm.
Her 12-year-old has sneaked a laptop into bed a few times and ended up groggy in the morning, "so that's why the rules are now in place, that that device needs to be in mom and dad's room before he goes to bed."
Sara Gorr, a San Francisco sales director and mother of girls, ages 13 and 15, said she welcomes the academy's recommendations.
Her girls weren't allowed to watch the family's lone TV until a few years ago. The younger one has a tablet, and the older one has a computer and smartphone, and they're told not to use them after 9 p.m.
"There needs to be more awareness," Gorr said. "Kids are getting way too much computer time. It's bad for their socialization, it's overstimulating, it's numbing them."
Registration for the 2013-2014 school year may be done from July 1 through August 8, 2013 at the District Office, located at 5715 Musick Avenue. Registration times will be 11:30-3:30 p.m. on Monday through Thursday. (Closed July 4)
Grades 7 and 8
Go directly to the Junior High School located at 6201 Lafayette Ave, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Thursday. (Closed July 4)
Grades 9 through 12
Go directly to the High School located at 39375 Cedar Blvd., 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Thursday. (Closed July 4)
The Kindergarten Readiness Act (SB 1381) changed the required age to enter kindergarten. To enroll in Kindergarten:
For the 2013–14 school year, children must turn five by October 1st; For the 2014–15 school year, and each school year thereafter, children must turn five September 1st.
- We will accept Kindergarten registration packets at students’ home schools beginning March 12, 2013 for students who will turn five on or before October 1st, 2013.
- Children who turn 5 by October 1st will be enrolled in kindergarten.
For the 2013-14 school year, Newark Unified School District will offer Transitional Kindergarten, which is the first year of a two-year kindergarten program, for students whose birthdays occur after the kindergarten entry cutoff date (October 1 in 2013-14), and on or before December 2nd. Students who enroll in Transitional Kindergarten will enroll in Kindergarten the following year. Transitional Kindergarten will be offered at Lincoln Elementary School, and, depending on the numbers of students who enroll, possibly another Newark elementary site.
- LincolnElementary School(36111 Bettencourt St., Newark, CA., 818-3500) will accept Transitional Kindergarten registration packets beginning March 12, 2013 for students who will turn five between October 2nd, 2013 and December 2nd, 2013.
- Lincoln Elementary School will also collect Transitional Kindergarten Student Information forms for children who turn five between December 3rd and January 31st, who will be placed on a waiting list for possible openings in Transitional Kindergarten. There is no guarantee of placement in Transitional Kindergarten for children who are not five on or before December 2nd. However, these children may be admitted into Transitional Kindergarten on a space-available basis. Transitional Kindergarten Student Information forms will be dated, time-stamped, and kept on file until it is determined if there is space available to accommodate additional children in Transitional Kindergarten. Such notification will not be made until after September 6th, 2013.