Health and Mind: Effects of screen time and media on children
Published 3:00 pm Saturday, August 27, 2022
By Amy Williams
MS. RD. LD. LDE
We have all heard about how screen time and computer games can be harmful to children, but often we wonder, “How harmful can it be or how much is too much”? Most kids today are plugged into television or video games long before they begin attending school. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation:
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• Two-thirds of infants and toddlers watch a screen an average of 2 hours a day.
• Kids under age 6 watch an average of about 2 hours of screen media a day, primarily TV and videos or DVDs.
• Kids and teens 8 to 18 years spend nearly 4 hours a day in front of a screen and almost 2 additional hours on the computer (outside of schoolwork) and playing video games.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that kids under 2 years old not watch any screen and that those older than 2 watch no more than 1 to 2 hours a day of quality programming. The first 2 years of life are considered a critical time for brain development. Screen time with other electronic media can get in the way of exploring, playing, and interacting with parents and others, which encourages learning and healthy physical and social development. As kids get older, too much screen time can interfere with activities such as being physically active, reading, doing homework, playing with friends, and spending time with family. Too much screen time can be detrimental as children who consistently spend more than four hours per day watching a screen, and are more likely to be overweight; kids who view violent acts are more likely to show aggressive behavior but also fear that the world is scary and that something bad will happen to them; and TV characters often depict risky behaviors, such as smoking and drinking, and also reinforce gender-role and racial stereotypes.
There are some options for parents to limit media time with kids, including:
• Keep screens out of bedrooms.
• Turn screens off during meals.
• Do not allow kids to watch any media while doing homework
Treat TV and screen time as a privilege to be earned — not a right. Establish and enforce family electronic viewing rules, such as screens are allowed only after chores and homework are completed.
Try a weekday ban. Schoolwork, sports activities, and job responsibilities make it tough to find extra family time during the week. Record weekday shows or save TV time for weekends and you will have more family togetherness time to spend on meals, games, physical activity, and reading during the week.
Set a good example by limiting your own TV and electronic viewing.
Check the TV listings and program reviews ahead of time for programs your family can watch together. Choose shows that foster interest and learning in hobbies and education (reading, science, etc…)
Preview programs before your kids watch them.
Come up with a family TV schedule that you all agree upon each week.
Watch TV together. If you cannot sit through the whole program, at least watch the first few minutes to assess the tone and appropriateness, then check in throughout the show.
Talk to kids about what they see on electronics and share your own beliefs and values. If something you do not approve of appears on the screen, you can turn it off, and then use the opportunity to ask thought-provoking questions.
Clark County Health Department provides programs for the entire family, including Freedom from Smoking, WIC, HANDS, family planning, and well child care/immunization. For more information on all of our service, please call 859/744-4482 or visit our website at www.clarkhealthdept.org. You can also “like” us on Facebook.