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Musings: Blog of the JAAPA Editorial Board


Blog of the JAAPA editorial board.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Digital media use: Updated guidelines for busy clinicians

Brian T. Maurer, PA-C

If you’ve got a moment to spare in your typical 24/7 online presence, consider perusing Licata and Baker’s timely article “Updated guidelines on digital media use by children” in this issue of JAAPA.  (Disclosure: It’s only available online.)

Licata and Baker provide busy clinicians with an overview of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP’s) updated guidelines for counseling parents and children on the judicious use of electronic devices.The AAP’s 2011 guideline suggested limiting screen time to less than 2 hours a day for children ages 3 to 18 years, with 2 hours of screen abstinence before bedtime; children under age 2 years were to go completely without screen time. Current guidelines suggest that digital media should be used sparingly in children under age 2 years. (Many children tap their first app on a digital device while they are still in diapers.)

Clinicians need to encourage parents to set reasonable boundaries in the digital world for their children. The authors reference two groups—the Center on Media and Child Health and Common Sense Media—dedicated to promoting responsible digital media use.

Blue light from digital screens can decrease the production of melatonin, adversely affecting sleep. Given the statistics that one-third of children under age 3 years have a TV in their bedroom and 72% of children ages 6 to 17 years have at least one digital screen in their bedroom, we can now add digital media to the list of differential diagnoses for insomnia. The authors highlight state-of-the-art technologies now available to reduce blue light interference.

So, start the conversation: educate and empower parents to reduce screen time and promote improved sleep in their children.
(Clinical pearl: If you can’t convince parents to remove multiple digital devices from their children’s sleeping chamber, consider having them remove the child instead. There’s less unplugging required.)

I encourage all primary care clinicians to tweet and retweet this timely online-only article. (hashtag #reducedigitalmediauseinchildren-andotherhomosapiens.)

And now dear reader, if you would be so kind to excuse me: my spouse has just texted that dinner is being served downstairs.

Brian T. Maurer has practiced general pediatrics for more than 30 years. He is the author of Patients Are a Virtue and blogs at The views expressed in this blog post are those of the author and may not reflect AAPA policies.