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Kids and Screen Time: What is Best for Your Child?

How much tv should my kid watch, bard and didriksen pediatrics, Illinois pediatricsIf you turned the clock back a decade or two, the only screens most kids used were the television and perhaps a handheld video game.  Still, many parents and professionals limited the amount of time children should spend on these devices, saying they took time away from more valuable things.  These days, our lives revolve around electronic devices, and with the prevalent use of phones and tablets that are Internet capable, we might be surprised how much time parents and kids spend looking at a screen.  Are parents still limiting their children’s screen time?  And is it even possible in this media age we live in? In a technologically advanced world, it’s important that children learn how to use and integrate it into their lives, but it’s also important to find balance.

A recent study by Northwestern University shows that screen time is no longer a hot button issue in most homes.  It’s no longer a source of conflict in 8 out of 10 homes according to USA Today, and 55% of parents are “not too concerned” or “not at all concerned” about media use in their homes.  Not surprisingly, parents take the lead on this issue, and in homes where parents spent a lot of time on computers and electronic devices, children followed suit.

Over 2,300 parents participated in the study, and from the results, researchers were able to put families in one of three groups:

  • Media-centric: Parents are on media devices about 11 hours each day and children 4.5 hours.  A family TV is on almost all the time and children have TV’s in their rooms generally.  39% of families fell into this category.
  • Media-moderate: 45% of families have parents who spend 5 hours in front of screens with children using them for about 3 hours each day.
  • Media-light: Just 16% of families use electronic devices sparingly, with parents on them for less than 2 hours and children for about 1.5 hours each day.

The American Academy of Pediatrics maintains that parents should limit screen time with children.  It is recommended that children under 18 months should not use electronics at all, and children 2 to 5-years-old, should be limited to 1 hour of educational content a day, which should be viewed with a parent and discussed to apply it to their lives. Those over 6-years-old should have limited amounts and screen time should not interfere with learning, sleep, physical activity, or other healthy behaviors. Higher amounts have been linked to obesity, attention issues, and sleep disruption. The AAP also recommends that families spend some quality, media-free time together, and that certain areas of the home, such as bedrooms, be without screens.

Certainly there are non-electronic things children can do that are beneficial.  Reading, writing, and playing outside are essential to children’s health and development, but when we live in such a media-enriched world, it is important to be intentional about limiting screen time. For more information about the importance of limiting screen time, contact us.