How Much Screen Time for Kids is Too Much?

Jan 20, 2023
How Much Screen Time for Kids is Too Much?
Parenting has never been easy. But the invasion of smartphones, tablets, laptops, and video games, has made the job more complicated than ever. Read on to learn how to manage electronic influences in your child’s life.

Parenting in the digital age is a challenge. From tablets and smartphones to laptops and video games, screens vying for your child’s attention are everywhere and aren’t going away.

If you worry about the impact that hours of staring at screens has on your kids, you are not alone. A recent Pew Research Center study reported that 71% of parents of a child under the age of 12 say they are at least somewhat concerned their child might ever spend too much time in front of screens, including 31% who are very concerned.

At Abdow Friendship Pediatrics in Rockville, Maryland, our medical team is committed to helping young patients thrive in all aspects of life. With that in mind, we offer parents the following guidelines for managing their child's screen time.

How much screen time is too much?

Like the American Academy of Pediatrics, we discourage screen time, except for video chatting, by children younger than 18 months. For children ages 2 to 5, we recommend limiting screen time to one hour a day of high-quality programming.

As your child grows, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. However, it’s safe to say most school-age children and teens spend too much time glued to screens. On average, children ages 8-12 in the United States spend 4-6 hours a day watching or using screens, and teens spend up to 9 hours

When deciding what’s right for your kids, remember that all children and teens need between 8-12 hours of sleep nightly and at least an hour of physical activity daily. Screen time and digital technology should also be balanced with other activities, including creative play, reading, and socializing. 

Harmful effects of too much screen time

Excessive screen time has been linked to adverse physical, psychological, social, and neurological consequences. These include:

Obesity

Studies show that children who spend long periods watching TV and videos or playing video games are more likely to consume high-calorie snacks with low nutritional content. Over time, this, combined with a lack of physical activity, can lead to weight gain and even obesity. 

Irregular sleep

The more screen time, the more likely your child will have trouble falling asleep or have an irregular sleep schedule. Adequate sleep is essential for your child’s well-being. Sleep affects memory, mood, learning, and academic performance. Exposure to light from screen devices can disrupt sleep and lead to poor sleep quality, while children who sleep with their mobile devices are at increased risk of insomnia

Behavioral issues

Children who spend excessive time using handheld devices and computers or watching TV are more likely to show behavior problems such as aggression, difficulties with attention, anxiety, and depression, according to a study published in JAMA Psychiatry.

Poor academic performance

Research shows that watching TV and playing video games are associated with poorer academic performance among children and adolescents. Additionally, elementary students with TVs or other screens in their bedrooms tend to perform worse on tests than those who don't. 

Violence

Excessive exposure to violence on TV and video games may desensitize children to violence. As a result, they may learn to accept violent behavior as an acceptable way to solve problems.

Proactive steps parents can take

Reducing your child's screen time requires a methodical approach. Start with this step-by-step guide.

  • Eliminate background TV
  • Keep TVs, smartphones, and computers out of your child’s bedroom
  • Don't eat in front of a screen
  • Replace screen time with a positive activity, such as outdoor sports 
  • Lead by example; put down your devices
  • Avoid blue light-emitting screen use before bedtime
  • Watch alongside your child, and discuss what you’re viewing
  • Be consistent in adhering to the boundaries you set

As with all other aspects of parenting, ensuring your child’s digital health requires diligence and a balanced approach.

To learn more about the effects of screen time on kids and for all of your pediatric healthcare needs, contact our office by phone or online to book your appointment.

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