How Much Screen Time Is Too Much?

by Dr. Ha Vo 

Developmental and Health Concerns Exist For Children Who Use Media In Excess and How We Can Prevent This In Our Children

 
In the age of excessive media use, parents often ask us what are the deleterious effects of all this screen time and what they can do to reduce it.  Any length of time a child spends looking at a screen is less time spent interacting with others. We know that for a healthy child to develop their social, cognitive, language, emotional and motor skills they need hands on and social interaction with adults and peers.  Higher level thinking skills such as task performance or creative, flexible thinking, require social (non digital) play and parent-child interactions.  This is essential for school success.  In addition, we know that excessive screen time is associated with significant increases in BMI and shorter night time sleep in our children which compounds our nations already rising problem of obesity. So in a world where digital technology is all consuming and present wherever we turn, we should remain diligent in limiting screen time use in our kids so we can set them up for success. 
 
The American Academy of Pediatrics Updates their Recommendations for Screen Time
 
Under 18months   No screen time with the exception of media use to connect and communicate with distant relatives
 
Preschool Age (18months-5 years)  Limit screen time to no more than 1 hour a day
 
Older Children and Teens  Consider setting up a Family Media Plan to set media boundaries  (www.healthychildren.org/mediauseplan)
 
Helpful Tips
 
Better Sleep. Avoid screens 1-2 hours before bedtime as the emitted blue light from screens can decrease the sleeping hormone, melatonin. Do not keep TVs in the bedroom. Consider having a station outside the bedrooms for charging of all devices. 
 
Be a Good Role Model. Children often mimic their parents. So set a good example and take mobile media breaks. Spend quality, interactive time with your child once you step through those doors.  It is so much more rewarding then scrolling through social media to find out who wore it best. 
 
Tech-Free Time. Setting up a family media plan helps with this one. Set up times where there is absolutely no interruptions from technology i.e. bedtime, meal times, game night with the family. 
 
Always Monitor Child's Media Use. Know what apps are used and downloaded. Consider testing it out yourself first. Try being interactive with your child and play with it together, especially with younger children. 
 

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