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Keep children’s media time under 2 hours, report says

Pediatricians list woes attributed to unrestricted use

Mark Risinger, 16, of Glenview, Ill., said he spends four hours online each day. He added that a two-hour limit, as a doctors’ group recommended, ‘‘would be catastrophic.”

Nam Y. Huh /associated press

Mark Risinger, 16, of Glenview, Ill., said he spends four hours online each day. He added that a two-hour limit, as a doctors’ group recommended, ‘‘would be catastrophic.”

CHICAGO — “Doctors 2 parents: Limit children’s tweeting, texting & keep smartphones, laptops out of bedrooms. #goodluckwiththat.’’

The recommendations are bound to prompt eye-rolling and LOLs from many teens but an influential pediatricians group says parents need to know that unrestricted media use can have serious consequences.

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It has been linked with violence, cyberbullying, school woes, obesity, lack of sleep, and a host of other problems. It is not a major cause of these troubles, but ‘‘many parents are clueless’’ about the profound impact media exposure can have on their children, said Dr. Victor Strasburger, lead author of the new American Academy of Pediatrics policy.

‘‘This is the 21st century and they need to get with it,’’ said Strasburger, a University of New Mexico adolescent medicine specialist.

The policy was online Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

The guidelines are aimed at all children, including those who use smartphones, computers, and other Internet-connected devices. It expands the academy’s longstanding recommendations on banning televisions from children’s and teens’ bedrooms and limiting entertainment screen time to no more than two hours daily.

Under the policy, those two hours include using the Internet for entertainment, including Facebook, TV, and films; online homework is an exception. The policy statement cites a 2010 report that found American children ages 8 to 18 spend an average of more than seven hours daily using some kind of entertainment media.

‘This is the 21st century and they [parents] need to get with it.’’

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Many children now watch TV online and many send text messages from their bedrooms after ‘‘lights out,’’ including sexually explicit images by phone or Internet, yet few parents set rules about media use, it said.

‘‘I guarantee you that if you have a 14-year-old boy and he has an Internet connection in his bedroom, he is looking at pornography,’’ Strasburger said.

The policy notes that three-quarters of kids aged 12 to 17 own cellphones; nearly all teens send text messages, and many younger kids have phones giving them online access.

‘‘Young people now spend more time with media than they do in school — it is the leading activity for children and teenagers other than sleeping’’ the policy said.

Mark Risinger, 16, of Glenview, Ill., can use his smartphone and laptop in his room, and said he spends about four hours daily on the Internet doing homework, using Facebook, YouTube, and watching movies.

He said a two-hour Internet time limit ‘‘would be catastrophic’’ and that kids will not follow the advice, ‘‘they’ll just find a way to get around it.’’

Strasburger said he realizes some will scoff at advice from pediatricians — or any adults.

‘‘After all, they’re the experts! We’re media-Neanderthals to them,’’ he said. But he said he hopes it will lead to more limits from parents and schools.

The new policy comes two weeks after police arrested two Florida girls accused of bullying a classmate who committed suicide. Police said one of the girls recently boasted online about the bullying and the local sheriff questioned why the suspects’ parents had not restricted their Internet use.

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