In general, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend any more than roughly two (2) hours a day for children over 8 years or age and only one (1) hour for those younger.
With the onset of social media, parents have been left with new concerns. Child sex trafficking and predators often particularly target children through their social media accounts. This ongoing pandemic has brought many minors to social media and the internet for many hours during the day and for some, it has become their only connection to the outside world. In addition, there is often bullying on social media which raises risks of suicide and added depression in unmonitored minors. With all this being said, what is a parent to do in this new age of social media and this new world we live in?
For parents who have allowed their children to have social media accounts given the current situation in the world, there is the need to monitor their interaction with the world at large via the net. One way to do that, is to friend your children on their accounts so that you can see what is posted on their pages. Another way to link your account to theirs or have access to their passwords so that you can see what is being shared by other users as well see what your children are sharing via the net. Check their internet history. The younger the child the more important this will be. Young children don’t always have the mindset or maturity to appropriately process what is being thrown at them by other users. This can easily make them fall prey to those with less-than-good intentions for your children. Monitor their profiles frequently. Make sure there isn’t false “advertising” as to who they are (i.e., their ages) and check to make sure all pictures are appropriate. Also check that there isn’t too much personal information published about them that could be used by a predator to track your child down. It’s always good to lock different settings on the net depending on the age and maturity of your child and what you feel they are ready to have access to.
If your child is older (tweens and teens), have open conversations with them. This will encourage them to come to you about any issues or any concerns they may have with anything that they have seen on the net or if someone is harassing them or bullying them. Creating this open space and communication will ultimately help them overall (and you) in dealing with all the risks and concerns regarding the internet.
In addition, regardless of the age of your child, limit the screen time your child has access to social media or the net. You can limit internet to just the computer or just their tablet and establish the age-appropriate amount of the time.
In the end, you don’t want your child to be hooked on the internet and not experience or learn from actual life. It is critical that they understand that the internet and social media life isn’t real life. As always, if there are any questions, always bring them up to your child’s health care provider during their regular checkups. Your health care provider can definitely be of help and provide appropriate advice when necessary.
Luis Velasquez MD FAAP
Director of Pediatrics
Joseph P. Addabbo Family Health Center