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The Science Behind How Much Screen Time Kids Should Have

Is too much screen time affecting your child?

Let’s face it; we live in a technology driven world. But as our kids are growing up with everything digital, should we be limiting how often they are looking at a screen?

Scientific Proof

First, let’s look at some negatives of too much time in front of a screen. And by screen let’s be clear that screen time includes cell phones, desk top computers, tablets, and television.  Psychology Today reports that screen time can have long term adverse consequences for a child’s development.  Dr. Aric Sigman, an associate fellow of the British Psychological Society and a Fellow of Britain’s Royal Society of Medicine believes that because a child is still developing their cognitive functions, that too much screen time, “is the very thing impeding the development of the abilities that parents are so eager to foster through the tablets. The ability to focus, to concentrate, to lend attention, to sense other people’s attitudes and communicate with them, to build a large vocabulary—all those abilities are harmed.”

Human Interaction

As a Reading Specialist, I can attest to the value of a child sitting in parents’ laps and being read to.  The interaction, the time for spontaneous discussions and the closeness of bonds that form with parent and child at that point, cannot be duplicated by watching a TV show or playing a video game. There are huge gains to be made and also a lot to be lost in allowing a child to sit in front of a screen, voiding him or her of quality time with human beings.

Lack Of Physical Activity

Decreased physical activity is another draw back to kids sitting in front of screens as opposed to moving around, playing with peers and exercising. Childhood obesity is at an all time high in the United States.  Kids this day and age are spending more time playing video games, texting and watching television instead of being outdoors and riding bikes and playing.

How Much Is Too Much?

I’ve covered some drawbacks, so how much is too much screen time?  The Academy of Pediatrics recommends that screen time for children 2-5 years of age should be limited to one hour per day.  For children ages 6 and older they recommend parents monitoring how much time they spend in front of a screen. For infants aged 0-18 months, they recommend no screen time at all.

Dr. Yolanda Reid Chassiakos, author of the “Children and Adolescents and Digital Media Technical Report” and assistant professor at UCLA, states the following advice, “For some children, two hours may be too much.” She goes on to talk about the negatives for young children under 18 months of age, “The noise and activity of a screen are distracting for a child.” and as an example states, “When a mother is breastfeeding, that is a crucial bonding time.”

Parents probably already know the answer to how much screen time is too much for their child.  Enforcing it and setting some ground rules are probably more of the issue.  Perhaps instead of just limiting the time on the screen, parents could offer alternative activities.  A family picnic with no screen time for adults and children included might be the cure. Or how about a day at the beach or a walk to and through the local park for the whole family.  What about investing in a pool or bikes for the children with scheduled in days where the whole family plans a bicycle outing.  Sometimes taking away a privilege like  screen time isn’t as beneficial as is replacing it with a more healthy alternative.

To Wrap It Up

In summary, we have to be honest here, children also learn from what they see adults doing.  It’s easy to get addicted to our cell phones for texting and Facebook for keeping in touch with friends and family. While all those are good ways to stay connected, sometimes it disconnects us from the ones right in front of us, and the people whose relationships to us is the most important.  Children notice how much time and how much value we place on spending time in front of a screen.  Perhaps by setting an example for them, you will help them to want to limit their time too.

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