Screen Time for Kids

If there was a medicine that had minimal benefit, but had been shown to be addictive, increase the risk for obesity, disrupt sleep, increase anxiety, and depression, would you give that medicine to your child? It is surprising, without knowing it, millions of people a day make the choice to give that medicine by giving their children screen time.

That is the difficulty with screen time, it does not seem like an important health issue. However, because of what we are finding in more recent studies it is becoming a bigger and bigger health concern and you should know how to minimize the negative health effects on yourself and your child.

Screen time is defined as time spent using a device such as a phone, TV, computer, or game console.

By following these simple suggestions, as a family, you can minimize the side effects of screen time on your children and yourself.

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Screen Time Suggestions

1) No more than 2 hours of screen time a day

We realize these screens can make life convenient in many ways, but it’s reasonable that with 2 hours of screen time or less your child can get their learning done, connect with family members, and have fun on them in an appropriate way. More than 2 hours a day, increases time sitting and decreases activity levels. When you are less active, you or your child are at risk for abnormal weight gain and depression.

2) No screens at the dinner table

These devices cause distracted eating, a major contributor to excessive weight gain in children. It also decreases social interaction with the family, which adds to your child’s anxiety and depression risk.

3) No screens after the sun goes down

Screens bother sleep by disrupting your sleep cycle with “daytime” light, when your brain should not be exposed to it. They also keep your brain active, by providing stimulus during a time when the brain is supposed to be winding down. Decreased sleep causes over eating, anxiety, depression, and behavioral problems in children and adults. Screens of any kind, for the above reason, should not be allowed in the child’s room.

4) No social media use until 18 years of age

Social media causes a superficial connection and gives a false impression of how people treat each other. When people respond, they tend to act in ways they would never act in person. Given that, it can expose a child to increased depression risk both from how “happy” other people look and how negatively the can respond. It also opens your child up to risk for cyber bullying and stalking. Of all the types of screen time, this is the type that is the most negative and risk prone.

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Tools & Resources

Our office recommends a combination of two apps that make managing screen time for your family seamless and easy, while doing it all for free. These apps allow you to shield them from negative effects of screen time and maximize the benefits of having devices, such as monitoring driving safety and ensuring the apps they use are only the ones you approve of.

Google Family Link (Android, iOS)

Life 360 (Android, iOS)

For more information on developing a family media plan check out this information from the American Academy of Pediatrics.