How much screen time should your child have?

Partners Post, December 2014

Student at ComputerChildren today have seemingly unending choices when it comes to media. They can watch videos on television or tablets, play videogames on smartphones or gaming units, or engage with friends on social media and email. Round-the-clock media exposure is a hallmark of our digital age.

As the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) notes, many children and teens have few rules guiding their use of media and, as a result, are spending way too much time staring at screens.

"A healthy approach to children’s media use should both minimize potential health risks and foster appropriate and positive media use — in other words, it should promote a healthy ‘media diet,’" said Marjorie Hogan, MD, FAAP, who co-authored a media policy for the AAP. "Parents, educators, and pediatricians should participate in media education, which means teaching children and adolescents how to make good choices in their media consumption."

Too often, research shows, American parents place little to no limits on their children's screen time. A 2013 study by the California-based nonprofit Common Sense Media found that children under age 8 spent about two hours daily looking at a screen. A 2010 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that children aged 8 to 10 were consuming nearly eight hours a day, on average, of electronic media outside school.

The AAP urges more moderation. According to the AAP, excessive media use by kids has been connected to higher rates of obesity, sleep issues, problems at school, aggression, and other social or behavioral problems.

The AAP policy statement on media use recommends parents:

  • Model effective "media diets" to help their children learn to be selective and healthy in what they consume. Take an active role in children’s media education by co-viewing programs with them and discussing values.
  • Make a media use plan, including mealtime and bedtime curfews for media devices. Screens should be kept out of kids’ bedrooms.
  • Limit entertainment screen time to less than one or two hours per day; in children under 2, discourage screen media exposure.

"If used appropriately, [digital media is] wonderful," Dr. Hogan told NPR in an August story. "We don't want to demonize media, because it's going to be a part of everybody's lives increasingly, and we have to teach children how to make good choices around it, how to limit it, and how to make sure it's not going to take the place of all the other good stuff out there."



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