Limiting Children's Access to Media and Internet
Although violence in media might or might not be playing a role in the school shooting trend, it's still imperative for parents to monitor the amount of time that their children are exposed to television and video games, according to Cora Breuner, chairperson of the Committee on Adolescence at the American Academy of Pediatrics.
A 2009 American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation calls on parents to limit their children's access to television, videos games and computers to just one to two hours per day. (Update, April 24, 2018: AAP has informed CP that the 2009 recommendations were updated in 2016 and the 2009 recommendation is no longer policy. The 2016 recommendations call on parents to "place consistent limits on hours per day of media use as well as types of media used" but does not specify what the limit should be. The AAP does, however, offer an interactive Family Media Use Tool to help families decide what their family media limits should be.)
"It is from nine years ago, but I think we are going to stick to our guns on that," Breuner said of the recommendations. "The more violence kids watch, the more immune they are to the effects of it. They see it now. You just turn on the news. You turn on the TV and the first thing you see is about some shooting somewhere else in the world. I think that parents need to be very careful about restricting access to not only TV and video, but also news."
As people across the world are spending more and more time on their smartphones, devices and computers, and as technology and the internet continue to improve and get more addicting, Breuner warned that parents need to limit their kids' access to their cell phones and social media to an hour-and-a-half to two hours per day.
She added that children younger than 13 should not be on social media whatsoever.
"I am not saying that parents should stalk their kids on Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram but be aware that if kids are spending a lot of time looking at other people's things, there is a possibility that they are getting depressed," she said. "They should get off and be on a sports team or a debate team or a cooking class. It doesn't have to be sports but something else besides staring at their screen."
Breuner, an affiliate of Seattle Children's Hospital and University of Washington Medical Center, said parents of her patients do a good job of following the recommendations for child media use. However, she stressed that it's the few who don't follow those guidelines that might have a problem.
"The thing about this is probably 98 percent of parents are following the rules and the 2 percent who aren't are the ones that are making a big splash," she noted. "I feel like most of the parents are doing the best they can and trying to be super careful about their kids and screens."
"If you as a parent are the kind of parent that makes sure your kids wear their seatbelts and brush their teeth, then you are the same parent that says they don't want their kids on social media until it is legal," she added.
A longitudinal study published last year found that higher levels of Facebook use is negatively associated with the well-being and mental health of users.
"I feel like if you are sad because you think your life is terrible and all you do is look at other people's lives, then it makes you feel worse," Breuner said.
Nutt added that there is another aspect to increasing use of phone technology and social media that is cause for concern — social isolation.
"It isolates us even though we are not isolated. You can be in a room full of people and be completely isolated because everybody is right there in their phone looking at people on Facebook that they haven't talked to in years," Nutt said. "Everyone puts so much out there as far as what their life is. You can make your life look however you want."
"How are you supposed to get to know somebody in one–sentence interactions type of thing," he added. "I think we have lost that as a society — there is not that community. It's one of those situations where you might have to look at it from a church standpoint. I think it is great if you just want to read the Bible at home. There is something to be said about going to church and having that community and going there and having that congregation."
Nutt concluded that there needs to be a "systemic" shift in our society.
"I think it is a systemic society thing that are a lot of pieces that all interact. It is going to be really hard to just look at mental health. It is going to be really hard to just look at bullying. It is going to be really hard to just look at people being isolated," he said. "Until you bring them all together and you work on them as a whole, it is going to be really hard to shift that. It's a major shift in our society. There are so many pieces in our society that have changed since I graduated high school over 25 years ago."