Digital tool helps families manage device use

UW Health Kids physician aids AAP in updating the tool before launch.
Published: Jul. 22, 2022 at 5:55 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WIFR) - A UW Health Kids doctor and researcher helped the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) launch two new digital tools this week that help parents and families create healthy digital habits.

The updated and redesigned Family Media Plan tool and the first phone questionnaire are free, browser-based resources parents can share with their kids device management.

Doctors used to recommend two hours of screen time a day for kids, but in an era of smart phones and tablets, the feedback from patients and families show the two hour rule doesn’t work, according to Dr. Megan Moreno, adolescent health expert, UW Health Kids and professor of pediatrics, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

“The family media plan presents families with different suggestions and options for rules and guidelines that can work for their specific needs,” Moreno said. “The family media plan tool was first launched in 2016 and the re-launch this week has several important updates.”

Moreno is on the AAP Council on Communications and Media and her research was used as scientific evidence to update the Family Media Plan tool and phone questionnaire.

One study by Moreno examined the effectiveness of the 2016 family media tool.

The study surveyed a parent and child from 1500 participating households and recorded the rules they picked online. Then, followed up with them two months later.

The research showed that many families picked a lot of rules at the beginning and two months later many had forgotten the rules, or only implemented some but not others.

“We took that information and used the scientific evidence to give better guidance to families in the new tool,” she said. “We now suggest that families pick a few rules and get familiar with them before adding more and update the plan as your kids get older.”

The timing for this updated family media tool is important because the pandemic created even more concerns about screentime for kids and families, said Moreno.

“We understand kids used their devices to stay in touch with friends and attend school virtually during the pandemic,” she said. “Now we need to find a new balance between the online and offline worlds.”

Another important piece to the family media tool is the new questionnaire around first-time cell phones. It is a 10-question quiz that helps parents decide whether they and their child are ready for the responsibilities of a personal phone.

The question of a child’s first smart phone comes up all the time with her patients, she said.

“There is no one right answer or a single age that is perfect; it is more about how does the kid handle responsibilities and how will they use the phone,” she said. “This new questionnaire for parents can guide them through factors to consider and key measures for the right time.”

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