Today, kids are spending an unhealthy amount of time on their devices. Whether it is a phone, tablet, video game or T.V., experts agree that this widespread use is affecting the health of our children in many ways. The American Academy of Pediatrics stated in a policy statement on “Children, Adolescents, and the Media,” that:
“The average 8- to 10-year-old spends nearly eight hours a day with a variety of different media, and older children and teenagers spend more than 11 hours per day.” Television, long a popular “babysitter,” remains the dominant medium, but computers, tablets and cellphones are gradually taking over.
“Many parents seem to have few rules about use of media by their children and adolescents,” the academy stated, and two-thirds of those questioned in the study said their parents had no rules about how much time the youngsters spent with media.
Teenagers and young children should not spend more than one or two hours per day with entertainment media, preferably with high-quality content, and spend more free time playing outdoors, reading, doing hobbies and “using their imaginations in free play,” the academy recommends.
Young children before 2 years of age should not be exposed to electronic media, said the pediatrics academy, because “a child’s brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.”
Children’s behavior and school performance can be negatively affected with the heavy use of electronics. Simulated violence, common in many video games can create an immunity to this type of behavior and causes some children to be more inclined to act violently and lack empathy towards others.
The Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following guidelines for parents:
- Limit the amount of total entertainment screen time to less than 1 to 2 hours per day.
- Discourage screen media exposure for children less than 2 years of age.
- Keep the TV set and Internet-connected electronic devices out of the child’s bedroom.
- Monitor what media their children are using and accessing, including any Web sites they are visiting and social media sites they may be using.
- Together, review TV, movies, and videos with children and teenagers, and use this as a way of discussing important family values.
- Model active parenting by establishing a family home use plan for all media. As part of the plan, enforce a mealtime and bedtime “curfew” for media devices, including cell phones. Establish reasonable but firm rules about cell phones, texting, Internet, and social media use.
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Sources American Academy of Pediatrics, Children, Adolescents and the Media
New York Times, Screen Addiction is Taking a Toll on Our Children