Children growing up today spend more time with technology than any previous generation. Unfortunately, this also means that they spend more time sitting in front of a screen. But at what point have the kids had too much? From tablets and cell phones to TV’s and laptops, children have a lot of opportunity for screen time. Although there are educational programs and apps, the negative effects of having too much media exposure seem to outweigh the positive.
“On average kids spend about seven hours a day on media, but we’d really prefer to see kids playing,” said Dr. Dan Marullo, pediatric neuropsychologist at Children’s of Alabama.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children under the age of 2 not watch any television and that older kids have no more than two hours of screen time per day.
“If you are starting to see your child not spending as much time interacting with other families or friends, not playing, not engaging in favorite activities, research shows that there can be a link between too much media exposure and obesity and hypertension,” he said.
Problems paying attention and concentrating, depression or anxiety, and even aggression can also be signs that your child has had too much media exposure.
Here are a few ways to limit children’s screen time:
- Limit the number of screen time hours.
- When a program is over, turn the television off instead of surfing the channels.
- Set up a “media free zone” that includes bedrooms and the kitchen during dinner.
- Make a screen time schedule that all members of the family abide by.
- Make watching television a family affair.
- Set a good example. Put down your cell phone and exchange watching television for something active.
Fortunately, there are many alternatives to the screen. Here are some examples:
- Send your kids outside to play, or go play with them!
- Involve them in a sport such as baseball, ballet, lacrosse or swimming.
- Have a family game night – play board games and cards.
- Sit down and read together.
The amount of fun activities you and your kids can do without the TV and tablets are endless. For more information on how to have healthy screen time habits, visit www.childrensal.org.