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Helena Dahl who works at the Swedish Media Council. Credit: Maria Svensson/Sveriges Radio

Media council asks parents 'what's healthy screen time?'

3:50 min

This week, the Swedish Media Council came out with a new tool to help parents crystalize their thoughts about how kids under five, and their families, should be using screens.

A lot of parents wonder whether their kids sit in front of screens for too long, but according to Swedish Radio News, the media council believes the issue isn't the amount of time, but the content of what the kids are looking at, and in what context.

The new tool consists of about a dozen illustrations to be used at pediatric centers as a way to spark discussion over kids' and families' screen habits. The illustrations depict common scenarios in which families are using screens, for example, one picture shows a mom intently focused on her smart phone while pushing a stroller down the sidewalk. In another illustration, a father feeds his child who is watching something on a tablet propped up on the dinner table. A third image depicts a living room, where each family member has a screen in front of them.

The media council believes it is important to start talking to kids at an earlier age about screen habits, since more and more kids under the age of five are in daily contact with smart phones and tablets.

"What we called extreme media usage a few years ago has become the norm," says Helena Dahl, who works at the media council. Therefore, she says, it's important for the council to be able to meet the needs of people who have or work with children.

According to the council, most 3-year-olds have been on the internet, and 42 percent of all 5-year-olds are online at least a few times a week.

Child psychologist Maria Bergström believes that what children are seeing on the screens and how they are using them is more important than how much time they're spending in front of them.

Using screen time to help a child wind down, or to be able to play a game together, or even as a babysitter, can be positive, so the thinking goes. On the other hand, if a child can't even eat without watching a movie or a video clip, then that's seen as negative.

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