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How Much is Too Much Screen Time

boy screen time

All parents want the best for their children. Most work hard to make sure their children eat the right foods, go to the right schools and have friends who are positive influences. A child’s well-being is a parent’s top priority. Managing screen time is an important part of that.

Like it or not, digital media is a part of our modern life. From the time children are toddlers, they have TV shows, apps and video games all marketed toward them. Many claiming to be educational or helpful for the child’s development. But, is that really the case?

Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) revised their guidelines regarding screen time. Previously, the AAP advised no screen time for children under two-years-old. However, in 2016 they revised this guideline. Their new stance is toddlers as young as 15 months can learn from digital media, as long as the parent or caregiver is present and involved. 

Screen time can have both negative and positive effects. While some evidence suggests children can learn from digital media, there are still risks involved.

  • Obesity – The AAP reports heavy media use during the preschool years can increase a child’s body-mass index (BMI) which also increases the likelihood for obesity as an adolescent and adult.
  • Sleep – excessive screen time or screen time in the evenings can reduce the amount of sleep a child gets.
  • Language and cognitive delays – while limited and educational screen time with parental involvement can be beneficial for a child’s development, the AAP also finds that too much screen time is a problem in early childhood and beyond.

The AAP recommends no more than one hour per day of digital media for children 2-5 years old. They also advise no screens during meals or before bedtime.

For children ages 5-18, the guidelines aren’t as clear cut. Since children will often need to use digital media for school work, there is no standard limit recommendation. The AAP does offer the following suggestions for parents and families.

  • Address what type and how much media are used.
  • Define what media behaviors are appropriate and acceptable. It’s important to have consistent and clear rules.
  • Children should not sleep with devices in their bedrooms. This includes TVs, smartphones, tablets and computers. Avoid use of these devices one hour before bedtime.
  • Discourage entertainment media while doing homework.
  • Have regular media-free times together (family meal times) and media-free spaces (bedrooms)

If you haven’t already, the AAP recommends each family creates their own Family Use Media Plan. This plan should help support the health, education and even entertainment needs for each family member. Check out HealthyChildren.Org’s free Family Media Planner tool.  Or, to learn more about healthy screen time habits, check out the American Academy of Pediatrics website.

Do you have any tips or advice for managing screen time? Make sure to leave a comment below and share your insights.



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