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Doctors relax rules on letting babies watch screens

You can show a tablet to your toddler, but only if you're there to supervise.
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Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

Ever since 1999, many pediatricians have clung to one main recommendation about kids and gadgets: you shouldn't show screens to any child under 2 years old. However, they've just loosened that once-firm policy. The American Academy of Pediatrics has softened its guidelines to permit screens for the under-2 crowd in the right circumstances. If your little ones are 18 months or older, they can watch "high-quality programming" (think PBS and Sesame Workshop) so long as you're there to help your kids understand. Any younger than that and you should limit them to video chat, the AAP says.

The new advice also comes with tips for older kids. Those between 2 and 5 years old shouldn't use screens for more than an hour per day, and then only for carefully-screened programming. And if they're older, it's still important to both set "consistent limits" and make sure that device time doesn't affect physical activity, play or sleep.

The AAP is quick to acknowledge that it's keeping up with the times. The media world is "constantly changing," it says. The trick is balancing technology with babies' developmental needs. A tablet can help your children expand their budding vocabularies or learn new concepts, but they still need to be old enough to process what they're seeing.

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