It can be tempting to use a screen for entertainment and a little break for both you and your child. According to the American Heart Association, children are spending too much of their time in front of screens.
How much screen time is okay for children?
While kids from age eight to eighteen are averaging more than seven hours per day looking at a phone, tablet, computer, and video game screens, the AHA recommends a limit of two hours per day. For children aged two to five, just one hour per day is the recommended limit.
With the majority of brain development happening within the first two years of life, pediatricians advise minimal screen time. Screen time for toddlers can actually stunt brain development. Research has shown that excessive screen time (more than an hour per day) between ages two and three negatively impacts development at ages three to five.
There is growing evidence that linking screen time with sedentary behavior and obesity. Kids sit in front of a screen and snack. They are often exposed to advertising for unhealthy foods. The blue light from screens can cause issues with falling asleep and lack of sleep contributes to the risk of obesity.
Limiting screen time isn’t easy. Media-free zones, such as at the dinner table or in the bedroom can be helpful. Media-free times, such as right before bed or first thing in the morning can also be beneficial. Encouraging outdoor play and face-to-face interactions with friends is a healthy alternative to screen time.
What parents shouldn’t do is watch their favorite television show with their toddler. It’s best to lead by example. Putting the phone down and engaging in conversations and activities can work to minimize screen time for both parents and children.
Using Digital Technology Can Also Be Beneficial
Of course, digital technology isn’t the enemy. Not all media is bad for kids and can be a valuable means of introducing information, current events, ideas, and education. It can help with school projects and provide otherwise impossible social connections with people on the other side of the world. Most importantly, parents need to be involved, teaching children to use media in a healthy, safe, and productive way.