How Much Is Too Much Screen Time for Children?
As a parent, you want only what’s best for your kids, so you stay aware of what they put into their bodies. You make sure their veggies are organic, limit their sugary drinks, and serve meals with lean meats and healthy grain.
The idea is – if your child consumes healthy things, they will be healthy. Have you thought about the other content they are consuming, though?
Children today are consuming media at rates higher than previous generations, and with the multiple sources like TV, video games, phones, computers, and tablets, opportunities for consumption are everywhere. Just like food, some healthy consumption is beneficial, but too much, especially too much bad stuff, is harmful.
The Research on Screen Time and Children
Screen time is the term used to describe the total hours, minutes, and seconds someone spends looking at screens, no matter the size or the content.
Children are engaged in tremendous amounts of screen time during the day. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- Kids 8-10 spend 6 hours per day in front of a screen – 4 of the hours watching TV
- Kids 11-14 spend 9 hours per day in front of a screen – 5 of the hours watching TV
- Kids 15-18 spend 7.5 hours per day in front of a screen – 4.5 of the hours watching TV
These rates of use are high and still do not even account for screen time accumulated at school.
Of course, not all screen time is bad as kids may be using their time to research a project, complete school work, or communicate with their friends or family member. There are some healthy ways to use screen time.
Screen time has developed a negative reputation. This perception is largely warranted because higher levels of screen time are related to:
- Children having sleeping problems at night.
- Increased risk of mental health issues like attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, and anxiety.
- Higher chances of gaining weight due to:
- Being sedentary for long periods.
- The tendency to eat more during screen time.
- Unhealthy food choices, often influenced by ads and commercials foods high in salt, fat, and sugar.
Peripartum depression is when a depressive episode begins during a pregnancy or in the month that follows. Learn more about this type of depression here.
5 Tips on Limiting Screen Time for Children
With of these unwanted effects linked to screen time, it makes sense parents and loved ones would take action to prevent screen time from increasing, lower existing levels of screen time, and protect the children in their lives.
Making these lifestyle changes may be met with resistance, but it is a battle worth fighting.
Take an Honest Inventory
- How much time do your children spend in front of screens? Do you know?
- What are your children consuming while they are in front of screens? Any ideas?
Many parents may completely underestimate the amount of time child spend with media and may have no idea what they are viewing. By taking an honest and detailed inventory of their habits, you can determine your desired goals and the appropriate course of action.
During your study, keep in mind:
- Children 2 and under are recommended to have zero screen time
- Children over two are recommended to have two hours or less of screen time daily
Be a Good Model
Becoming a “do as I say and not as I do” parent puts you in a precarious situation. No matter what you tell your children, your actions model normal behaviors for them.
With this being true, one of the best steps towards limiting screen time in your children is limiting your own screen time. Stop flicking through status updates, recipes, and news sites. Screen time isn’t great for adults either.
Your children will see you putting your phone away and have a stronger desire to do so as well. They will get healthier because you are getting healthier.
Announce your Intentions
The quest to reduce screen time does not have to be a covert mission. You can clearly state your concerns, goals, and the available rewards for people who achieve these goals.
By working together to establish common screen time targets, the entire family works as a team towards the desired outcome. Choose valuable rewards to increase motivation and desire for change.
Cut Out the Background Noise
Dinner time, during homework, while falling asleep at night – these are times where screens are left on in the background. Background screens are negative influences that only bring distraction.
Encourage your family to only do one thing at a time by turning off TVs and other screens during meals and removing screens from bedrooms. Doing so allows more focus on family time and better chances of restful sleep at night.
Find Healthy Replacements
The decision to cut back screen time will be met with mutiny if you cannot substitute fun activities for screen time. Pick up a book, do some healthy cooking, or go for a walk during times where the family would ordinarily be staring at screens.
Not only will you reduce the risk of unwanted screen time effects, but you will healthier and more connected as a family unit. Less screen time means more family time.