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Story highlights

Two hours of TV a day may be too much for kids, says the American Academy of Pediatrics

Infants 18 months and younger should not be exposed to screens

(CNN) —  

Digital media exposure for children of all ages should be limited, according to new guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

This week, the AAP hosted a national conference in San Francisco, where an estimated 10,000 pediatricians met to discuss new children’s health recommendations for 2017. Children’s screen time, social media and cyberbullying were key points of interest.

Previously the Academy set a general screen time limit: no more than two hours in front of the TV for kids over age 2. Today, in a world surrounded by digital media 24/7, defining screen time is difficult.

“It doesn’t make sense to make a blanket statement [of two hours] of screen time anymore,” said Dr. Yolanda Reid Chassiakos, lead author of the “Children and Adolescents and Digital Media Technical Report” and assistant professor at UCLA. “For some children, two hours may be too much.”

For the new guidelines, the AAP identifies screen time as time spent using digital media for entertainment purposes. Other uses of media, such as online homework, don’t count as screen time.

The academy recommends that for children 2 to 5 years of age, screen time should be limited to one hour per day. For kids ages 6 and older, parents can determine the restrictions for time spent using screen, as well as monitor the types of digital media their children use.

Babies are most vulnerable to screens. Infants aged 18 months and younger should not be exposed to any digital media, the academy says.

Infants 18 months and younger: No screen time

For parents with infants, cutting off technology completely can be challenging. But banning screen time for babies is hugely important for brain development and healthy parent-child connections, Chassiakos said.

“The noise and activity of a screen are distracting for a child,” she said. Even if the baby isn’t directly looking at the screen – for example, if a mother is nursing her child on the couch while watching TV – the baby can be overstimulated by the lights and sounds, which may cause distress and sleep problems.

Perhaps most negatively, screen time causes a disconnect between parents and children.

“When a mother is breast-feeding, that is a crucial bonding time,” said Chassiakos. The more face-to-face interaction children have with mothers and other adults, especially eye contact, the better for the brain developm