By SALLY ROBINSON

The American Academy of Pediatrics is well aware of the impact and use of media in all of our lives. They have relied on research based information to establish guidelines for families about the positive use of media in our lives. The explosion of devices and apps are so rapid that recommendations sometime lag behind digital innovations.

Today more than 30 percent of U.S. children play with a mobile device while still in diapers and 75 percent of 13- to 17-year-olds have smartphones. Last year the Academy organized a conference called “Growing Up Digital: Media Research Symposium” which was composed of the leading scientists and educators to develop thoughtful, practical advice for parents. (www.aap.org/en-us/Documents/digital_media smposium_proceedings.pdf.)
Below are some of the evidence based messages from this conference.

• Media is just another environment that children live and learn in. It can be positive or negative.

• Parenting has not changed. The same parenting rules apply. Play with your children. Set limits — kids need and expect them. Teach kindness. Be involved. Know their friends and where they are going with them.

• Role modeling is critical. Limit your own media use and model online etiquette. Attentive parenting requires face time away from screens.

• We learn from each other. Neuroscience research shows that very young children learn best via two-way communication. “Talk time” between caregiver and child remains critical for language development. Passive video presentations do not lead to language learning in infants and young toddlers. The more media allows live interactions such as chatting by video with a distant parent, the more educational it is. Optimal educational media opportunities begin after the age of 2.

• Content matters. The quality of the content is more important than the time spent with media.

• More than 80,000 apps are labeled as educational, but little research validates their quality. An interactive product requires more than pushing and swiping. One organizations called Common Sense Media reviews age appropriate apps, games and programs (www.commonsensemedia.org).

• Set Limits. Tech use, like all other activities, should have reasonable limits. Does your child’s technology use help or hinder participation in other activities?
Children who are growing up in a digital age should learn healthy concepts of digital citizenship.
Sally Robinson is a clinical professor of pediatrics at UTMB Children’s Hospital. This column isn’t intended to replace the advice of your child’s physician.