How much screen time should children be allowed?

 

Sara Richie mug2By Sara Richie
Family Living Educator
University of Wisconsin-Extension Oneida County

 

 

 

Children today are growing up with screens in every direction. Television, video games, tablets, smart phones, computers and other handheld digital devices are consuming our lives, and our children’s. Not all screen time is “bad” for our children. There are many opportunities for our children to use screen time as learning time, but it is important for us, as parents, teachers and health practitioners, to set limits. The American Pediatrics Association has set guidelines for the amount of screen time children should be getting at different ages. Screen time of any kind is discouraged for all children under 2 years of age. There is a potential for long-term harm and no evidence of educational benefit with use of any screens for children under 2 years of age. Children 2 years and older are recommend to have 2 hours or less of recreational screen time a day.

A study done by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that children 8-10 years old are getting almost 8 hours a day of digital media exposure and older children and teenagers are getting 11+ hours. Children are getting more screen time then they are spending in school each day. There is a potential for a number of health issues associated with too much recreational screen time, including social and emotional health risks.

Parents can take a number of steps to help combat any negative health risks that are associated with overuse of recreational screen time.

Digital devices are unavoidable in today’s society and our children are growing up with them being an integral part of their daily lives. When used appropriately, devices can have great benefits but if abused and overused, can be harmful to our children’s health.

For more information on limiting screen time or proper use of digital media with your children, please contact Sara Richie, Family Living Educator at Oneida County UW-Extension, at 715-365-2750 or by email at sara.richie@ces.uwex.edu.

10 Tips to Help Limit Screen Time

From the American Academy of Pediatrics

  • Screen time is time. Treat digital media use as any other environment in your child’s life. Make sure to set limits and expectations, your children need them. Know who your children’s friends are online and off.
  • Set Limits and encourage play time. Children learn better through play, especially very young children. Make time each day for screen free play in your home for the whole family and play with your children during this time if you are able.
  • A family that plays together, learns together. Use digital media with your children. Encourage social interaction, model sportsmanship, support learning and provide guidance.
  • Be a digital role model. Put your phone down and limit your own media use, be a healthy role model for your children and spend time with them without screens. Teach and model good behaviors online.
  • Value Face-to-Face communication. Infants and toddlers learn best through two-way interactions. Face-to-face interactions also help with language development.
  • Designate a “Tech Free” zone in your home. Designate a place for overnight charging to keep devices out of your children’s room. Keep mealtimes and family time tech free. This will allow for better communication, eating and sleeping habits and overall wellness.
  • Technology is not an emotional pacifier. Media can be claming for children, but should not be the only strategy used. It is important for children to learn how to handle and control strong emotions and boredom by using other techniques, such as slow breathing to calm, talking out a solution to the problem or using other activities to control their emotions.
  • Do your research on Apps for your Children. Focus on the content of the app, not the features. There are a wide variety of apps that claim to be educational, but are not proven to be. To find reviews on what’s out there and age appropriate material, go to www.commonsensemedia.org.
  • It is okay for your teen to be online. Monitor and teach kind online behaviors. Social media is a typical part of adolescent development and is a healthy way for your teen to explore relationships. Just be sure they are acting appropriately online and in real life. Remind them that online, even if there are privacy settings, is not always private. Keep lines of communication pen with your child and allow them to ask you questions if they need to.
  • Kids will be kids. Mistakes will be made, but use them as teachable moments and handle with empathy. Watch for any “red flags” such as bullying, sexting or signs of self-harm images and discuss with a professional, such as your pediatrician on how to handle the situation.

Sara Richie can be reached by phone at 715-365-2750 or by email at sara.richie@ces.uwex.edu.

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