Smartphones, tablets, and TVs aren’t going anywhere. They’re being used at home, in classrooms, in libraries—technology is infiltrating and improving daily life everywhere!
But even when used for constructive purposes, too much screen time can have adverse effects on our health and well-being.
This is especially true for children. Young minds are malleable and still developing. Excessive screen time can cause problems with kids’ attention span, academic performance, and sleep.
How much screen time is too much? Keep reading to learn more about kids’ screen time recommendations, why limiting screen time is important, and what parents can do to help.
How Much Screen Time Should Kids Have?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the following shocking statistics about kids’ screen time:
- Children between eight and ten spend six hours on the screen every day.
- Children between eleven and fourteen spend nine hours on the screen every day.
- Children between fifteen and eighteen spend seven-and-a-half hours on the screen every day.
More than half of these hours are spent in front of the TV. (And they don’t account for any screen time children may have at school.)
If these numbers are unhealthily high, then how much screen time should kids have?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children between five and eighteen should be limited to two hours of recreational screen time each day. For children younger than five, the AAP recommends the following:
- No more than one hour of screen time each day for children between two and five.
- That hour should be “high-quality programming”—interactive and educational content that promotes development of social, language, and reading skills—and would be best spent with parent supervision or engagement.
- No screen time for children younger than two.
That said, you know what’s best for your child. It’s completely reasonable to adjust their screen time permissions as they get older!
Why Limiting Screen Time Is Important
It can be tempting to plop your kiddo in front of a screen to calm them down or keep them quiet. But before you use technology to manage your tykes and teens, take a look at why limiting screen time is important:
Kids and teens who rely on screens to meet their social needs often struggle making real-life connections with their peers. Statistics show that excessive screen time can lead not only to social and emotional issues, but also to more harmful behavior like cyberbullying.
Too much time on the screen can also cause social anxiety. This manifests through poor eye contact, passive body language, apathy, and noticeable discomfort. Children who are uncomfortable in social situations may also take long pauses during discussions, hesitate to have meaningful conversations, and experience difficulty understanding long or nuanced questions.
With limited screen time, kids and teens can focus on face-to-face communication.
It is recommended that children engage in physical activity for at least one hour each day. This can happen all at once or throughout the day, and can include everyday activities like playing basketball, jumping rope, or riding a bike.
When children’s screen time is limited, they’re forced to find new ways to keep themselves entertained. Less time on the couch and in front of a screen leads to more time going outside and getting active!
According to the National Sleep Foundation:
Science has proven that blue light keeps you up at night. Cell phones, computers, tablets, and televisions emit blue light from their screens … because blue light promotes wakefulness, it can have a powerful effect on the natural sleep-wake cycle, which is one of the most essential circadian rhythms governing our body processes.
No matter the kind of content your child consumes before bed, screen time within two hours of hitting the sack can cause disruptions to their natural sleep cycle.
Good Screen Time vs. Bad Screen Time
Screen time isn’t always the big, bad villain in kids’ lives. There are ample plus sides to using the screen!
From text and email to phone call and video chat, electronics like smartphones and tablets make communication with friends and family easier than ever. Keeping in touch with loved ones is never a bad thing!
Streaming services like Netflix and video platforms like YouTube offer plenty of educational programs for children. They can learn the alphabet, colors and shapes, nursery rhymes, and be introduced to new topics and subjects.
Plus, educational and interactive apps and games can propel your child forward in their studies!
Is your child an artist? Maybe they like to make videos about their hobbies. Whatever their creative outlet may be, the screen can support their goals.
Kids and teens can use apps to mix music, make digital art, film tutorial videos to share online, or surf the web and platforms like Pinterest to find inspiration.
How Can Parents Limit Screen Time?
If you’re concerned about how much time your child is spending on screens, try implementing these eight changes. They may seem like simple shifts, but they make a big difference!
- Ensure your child is physically active for one hour each day. Encourage them to join a sports team, club, or simply play outside!
- Limit your child’s recreational screen time to between one and two hours each day.
- Promote more productive uses of the screen, such as educational documentaries and interactive academic apps.
- Join your child in their screen time. Watch TV shows together or ask them about the games they’re playing!
- Don’t use the TV as your source of white or background noise. It can be distracting from more important tasks, for both you and your child.
- Remove TV sets, computers, and other electronics from your child’s bedroom. Reserve that space for imaginative play, schoolwork, and sleep!
- Set firm screen time limits and rules in your home, like no devices at the dinner table or before bed.
- Lead by example! If you want your child to cut back on their screen time, try doing the same.
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