Television, the Internet and mobile phones can be entertaining and educational. And, the information they provide can open up whole new worlds for kids, giving them a chance to travel the globe, learn about different cultures, and gain access to ideas they may never encounter in their own community.
But how much screen time is too much? With summer fast approaching and extra free time stretching far into August, parents should take precautions against overindulging kids.
According to Child Trends, “Television is available to nearly all children ages eight to 18 (99% in 2009), and most of these children have a television in their bedroom (71% in 2009). Conventional television viewing has decreased over the past twenty years. But, when one includes TV content displayed on computers, and handheld media devices, such as iPods or cell phones, viewing actually increased by 38 minutes per day from 1999 to 2009, according to a national study. The average amount of television 8- to 18-year-olds watch is four-and-a-half hours per day.”
If your child is typical, TV, the Internet and mobile devices play a very big role in his life. Following are some research findings to keep in mind as you decide what kind of role you want screen time to play in your family:
• Screen time is probably replacing activities in your child’s life that you would rather have them do such as things playing with friends, being physically active, getting fresh air, reading, playing imaginatively, doing homework and doing chores.
• Kids who spend more time watching TV or on the Internet spend less time interacting with family members.
• Excessive screen time can contribute to poor grades, sleep problems, behavior problems, and obesity.
• Advertisers target kids, and on average, children see tens of thousands of TV commercials and ads per year. This includes ads for unhealthy snacks and drinks.
How can parents limit the amount of time spent watching TV, on the Internet or on mobile devices?
• Make very specific rules about when children can and cannot watch television or use the Internet. For example, do not allow TV during meals, homework or when parents are not around.
• American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines recommend that parents limit their children’s scree time to one to two hours per day at most.
• If your child is doing poorly in school limit screen time to half an hour each day, or entirely eliminate it, except for limited time on the weekends.
• Make it a rule that children must finish homework and chores first.