How much screen time is too much for my child?

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          From the days of watching “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood” on console televisions to playing Minecraft on handheld devices, children of all ages have been glued to screens of all sizes for decades. But whether it’s for entertainment or education, the problem is that children today are spending more time than ever glued to their TVs, laptops and smart devices.

          According to a recent report released by Common Sense Media, children up to age 8 spend an average of 2 hours and 19 minutes every day on screen media — with time spent on mobile devices increasing every year. The numbers also go up as a child gets older with children ages 8-12 years spending a whopping 4 hours and 36 minutes staring at screens of all sizes.

            So, what is wrong with all that time spent staring at screens? Besides the obvious eye strain and time taken away from real-time relationships, there are many other problems associated with too much screen time. The American Academy of Pediatrics specifically warns that overuse of digital media and screen time can put children and teens at risk for obesity, sleep problems, cyberbullying and poor performance at school.

            Fortunately, watchdog groups are tackling the issue of screen time overload with some very specific recommendations on how much is too much for different age groups.

Screen Time Recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics

Newborns to 18 months: Over the years, the AAP has maintained that babies less than 18 months avoid screen time, partially because they are too young to comprehend what they are seeing. But recently the AAP has made one screen time exception for babies — the use of live video. Research has shown that babies as young as six months can make an emotional connection to seeing loved ones on FaceTime, Skype and other live platforms — and there does not seem to be any negative consequences.

18 months to 2 years: The AAP advises that screen time should be very limited for this age group and that individual use should not be allowed. When children in this age range do have screen time, parents and caregivers should choose high-quality, educational programming and watch with children to make sure they can understand what they are seeing.

2 to 5 Years: Children aged 2-5 years old should be limited to only one hour of screen time per day. As with the previous age group, parents and caregivers should continue to watch with children to make sure they can comprehend the subject matter and how it applies to their world.

6 Years and Older: Parents and caregivers need to place limits on how much time children in this age group spend on all types of screened media (with the average of 4.5 hours being way too much). This is the age where parents often use media as babysitters and where lifelong habits are formed — so limited screen time can be crucial to enhancing a child’s physical and behavioral development.

Turn off and Tune in…to Each Other

But how do parents and caregivers help children avoid excessive screen time? The AAP recommends the following:

Screen Free Zones: Establish areas of your home where TVs, laptops, phones and iPads are not allowed. These areas can include bedrooms (to promote better sleep) to kitchens and dining rooms (to promote family time).

Screen Free Times: There are also times of the day that can become “screen free” including meal time, family car trips and one hour before bed to promote longer and more restful sleep.

Balancing Online and Offline Times: By decreasing screen time, your child will have time for playing outside and exercising, reading books, socializing with friends and family and playing with games and toys that can help promote learning and creativity.

Safety and Digital Manners: Finally, to ensure your child learns how to stay safe — and respectful — when they are online, parents should have ongoing conversations about safe screen time experiences, including not sharing personal information or photographs with anyone on social media, how to treat others with respect and how to respond to bullying.

For more information on creating a Family Media Plan and for other information on how to reduce your child’s screen time, click here: American Academy of Pediatrics Recommendations

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By ABC Quality Team at 22 Jan 2019, 11:00 AM