Curbing media use must be a priority

October 26, 2015

Media use by children and adolescents is part of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Agenda For Children, but pediatricians may find it challenging to fit anticipatory guidance on this topic into the well-child visit.

Media use by children and adolescents is part of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Agenda For Children, but pediatricians may find it challenging to fit anticipatory guidance on this topic into the well-child visit.

At a session entitled “Screen time: What we know and what we can do about it”, held Sunday, October 25, David Tayloe, Jr, MD, and Robert Mendelson, MD, talked about the why and how of discussing media use during well-child visits.

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“It’s clear that there has been a revolution in screen-based technology in the past decade, but also that there is really nothing good to say about its excessive use by kids,” said Dr Tayloe, private practice, Goldsboro, North Carolina, and past president of AAP.

Citing a recent study that found some children are spending up to 13-plus hours a day with screen-based media, Dr Tayloe also reviewed research showing that spending more than 2 hours daily with entertainment media puts children at increased risk for a host of health and behavioral problems. In addition, school performance can suffer when school-aged children and adolescents stay up at night engaged in screen-based activities, and the consequences of supplanting conversation with media use for younger children include poor school readiness and reading ability that are ultimately predictors of school dropout, said Dr Tayloe.

“Dropping out of school is one of the worst outcomes for a child, and so if our work as pediatricians aims to be outcome-based, focusing on media use is critically important,” he said.

“If children don’t develop good language and reading skills because of excessive media use, they are probably never going to realize the potential benefits of the technology. So, it is a matter of putting first things first for parents.” 

With that in mind, Dr Tayloe said that he has made talking to parents about the effects of media exposure on early brain and child development a focus of his counseling during well-child visits. Other AAP Agenda topics are mentioned, but Dr Tayloe distributes printed materials to provide the bulk of that education.

Parents are told that the most important thing they can do for their child’s development is to talk face to face from the moment of birth. To promote early literacy and school readiness, Dr Tayloe has also implemented the Reach Out and Read program, giving out a book to each child at the 10 well-child visits from ages 6 months to 5 years.