Cincinnati Family Magazine

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May 18, 2022

The ‘Right Age’

Peer pressure and life can interrupt clear decision-making when it comes to kids, TV and tech.

When is it OK for kids to have an Instagram account? What age can they watch the popular Netflix series, “Squid Game?” Have a TV in their room? Is there really a “right age” and what effect does it have on our kids? The right age depends on the kid and the family, and yes, it does have an impact on our kids’ development and mental health. Setting your own guidelines and family rules really is up to you, however, also knowing the appropriate age for your kid when it comes to social media and technology is essential to their well-being.

“This readiness is based on many aspects of physical and emotional maturity. What’s the right age for a child to access technology? It all depends,” says Chris Tuell Ed.D., clinical director of addiction services and assistant professor of the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

“Technology and the internet can provide a great learning experience for young children, however, this learning needs to be accompanied by an ongoing interaction with the parent,” he says.

If you’re unsure whether to allow your kid to have his first phone or watch a popular TV series that everyone is ranting about, stop and think about this first: How did you decide which sport to sign your kids up for? When to cut off sugar? Put them to bed? There is a careful thought process to these decisions. Naturally, you look at their age, behavior and more. This decision-making process goes hand-in-hand with technology and social media, says Tuell. What matters is how we set the stage for our kids when allowing them to watch their favorite TV shows or have their first Instagram account.

“Technology and media are present in all aspects of our lives,” he continues. “When it comes to our kids, we may want to consider how our focus on technology should be more on how we live with technology, rather than opposing it.”

Following Guidelines

Age guidelines exist, but are we following them? Some parents tend to let go of the “rules” because of pure exhaustion and at times, find ways to catch a break which may mean giving up on monitoring what their kids are viewing. Or we give in to everyday peer pressure. The health impact of exposing kids to violence at a young age may make some parents think twice before being too lenient and letting their kids cozy up next to them during their favorite adult TV show.

“It is essential to follow guidelines and age limitations for kids, because when it comes to technology and TV shows/movies, the material may not be age-appropriate, especially for young and impressionable minds,” says Tuell. “We have to remind ourselves as parents, that exposure to certain levels of violence and sexual themes, can have a negative and lasting impact on the child’s emotional development.”

Short-term effects include poor school performance; sleep disturbances; and aggressive behaviors toward others, he continues. Long term effects of kids and teens being exposed to graphic violent images include depression, anxiety and trauma.

TECH GUIDELINES

Per The American Psychological Association:

  • 0 – 2 YEARS: NEVER/NOWHERE
  • 3 – 5 YEARS: ONE HOUR A DAY
  • 5 – 12 YEARS: SUPERVISED USE
  • 13 – 18 YEARS: RESPONSIBLE USE

Per The American Academy of Pediatrics:

  • Avoid using screen media for anything other than video chatting for kids younger than 18 months.
  • Find high-quality programming for toddlers 18 to 24 months and watch or play together
  • Limit screen to one hour per day of high-quality programs for ages 2 to 5 years.
  • Create a family media plan with consistent rules and enforce them for older kids.

About the Author

Amanda Hayward

Amanda Hayward is editor of this publication. She is from Cincinnati, Ohio, a military wife and mom of three. If she's not writing for Cincinnati Family, you'll find her running, juggling kids, teaching group fitness classes and cooking up healthy recipes.