They’re in the house, in the car, in our bags, and in our hands much of the time. The use of iPhones, tablets, iPads, laptops, and more has become so common today, we rarely even think about it.

When it comes to our kids, however, we must think about it. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) encourages parents to think twice about the amount of screen time they’re allowing their children to have — and why, exactly, this is occurring.

“Giving children a tablet or a phone to pacify them or keep them busy is a bad idea,” said one pediatrician.

Using technology to pacify unruly or bored children is creating a dicey scenario.

“Giving children a tablet or a phone to pacify them or keep them busy is always a bad idea,” said Dr. Rosemary Stein, a pediatrician in Burlington, North Carolina.

She’s seeing more and more children, she said, who are unable to focus or communicate at a level that’s considered normal for their age level. They’re not interacting well with others, she said. Their reading skills are falling behind and they’re not using their brains to do math equations as they get older. She said children also have a tough time with waiting for anything — everything is “instant” in the online world and kids aren’t learning patience.

“As parents, we should always carry around a book or flash cards — something for our children to do. It teaches them how to occupy and entertain themselves. This is a feature that is very rarely fostered in our children,” said Stein. “Many are unable to entertain themselves or focus. That’s an important trait to have as a human being.”

[lz_bulleted_list title=”Recommendations for Children’s Media Use” source=””]For children younger than 18 months, only video-chatting is acceptable|For children 18 to 24 months, high-quality programming should be watched with parents to help them understand what they’re seeing|For children ages 2 to 5 years, one hour per day of high-quality programs should be the max|For children ages 6 and older, place limits on the time and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity, and other behaviors essential to good health[/lz_bulleted_list]

Early childhood is a time of rapid brain development, when children need time to play, sleep, learn to handle emotions, and build relationships. Research suggests excessive media use can get in the way of these important activities.

All of this is why the AAP announced new guidelines on Friday advising parents to limit screen time to one hour per day for children ages two to five. That hour should consist of “high-quality programming or something parents and kids can view or engage with together,” according to the organization.

With the exception of video-chatting, the AAP recommends digital media should otherwise be avoided — if at all possible — in children younger than 18 months old. (And why shouldn’t that be possible? Parents control what their young children do.)

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Digital media, health experts say, should also be shut off an hour before bed, and devices put away during mealtimes and parent-child playtime.

“In children over age three, the research is solid: High-quality programs like ‘Sesame Street’ can teach kids new ideas. However, under three, toddlers’ immature brains have a hard time transferring what they see on a screen to real-life knowledge,” said Jenny Radesky, M.D., a developmental behavioral expert and pediatrician at University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, in a statement. “We don’t yet know if interactivity helps or hinders that process.”

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Video-chatting with grandparents, watching science videos together, streaming music and dancing together, looking up new recipes or craft ideas, taking pictures and videos to show each other, and having a family movie night are just a few ways media can be used as a tool to support family connection, the authors said.

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But pediatricians such as Radesky and Stein recommend that parents limit their own screen time, too — heavy parent use of mobile devices is associated with fewer verbal and nonverbal interactions between parents and children and may be associated with more parent-child conflict.

For school-aged children and adolescents, the idea is to balance media use with other healthy behaviors.

“The key is mindful use of media within a family,” Megan Moreno, M.D., MSEd, MPH, FAAP, and lead author of the policy statement on media use in school-aged children and teens, said in a statement.