Kids and Screen Time: Ten Facts Parents Should Know
By Lauren S. Matthews, MD, pediatrician with Lexington Pediatric Practice, a Lexington Medical Center physician practice1. Under age 2, children develop important cognitive, language, sensorimotor, and social-emotional skills through hands-on exploration and social interaction. Media use for this age group should only occur when an adult is standing by to co-view, talk and teach.
2. For children ages 2-5, screen time including television, computers, tablets and smartphones should be limited to no more than 1 hour per day. With too much screen time, younger children are losing out on key interactions with parents, adults, and other children necessary for development.
3. For older children and adolescents, sedentary media exposure should be limited to 2 hours per day. This recommended limit applies solely to screen time for entertainment purposes such as television, streaming services, gaming consoles and social media. Older children and adolescents are spending more time interacting with a virtual world than building face-to-face relationships.
4. Children who watch too much television in infancy and preschool years can show delays in attention, thinking, language and social skills. High levels of media use are linked to obesity and cardiovascular risks as early as childhood. And, there is a well-studied association between violent content on television and behavior problems. So, parents should also monitor content.
5. Identify certain areas in the house as “tech-free” zones. Bedrooms should be screen-free areas because increased media exposure there is linked to fewer minutes of sleep per night and puts children at an increased risk for sleep disturbances. And, meal times and parent-child play times should be “unplugged.”
6. Find an activity your child enjoys and involve the entire family. Unplugged and offline playtime encourages creativity. Make this type of playtime a daily priority. Parents should join in the activities.
7. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers parents the opportunity to develop an interactive family media use plan that aligns with your family values and parenting styles. This type of plan can be helpful so that children and parents have specific expectations of media time. Visit aap.org to learn more.
8. Parent media use is a strong predictor of child media habits. Reducing parental television viewing and enhancing parent-child interactions can be an important opportunity for emotional connection and the early development of language, cognition, social skills, and emotional regulation.
9. An increase in screen time has been identified as a leading contributor to the growing childhood obesity epidemic. Limiting screen time encourages physical activity. Children and adolescents should participate in 60 minutes or more of physical activity each day.
10. Not all screen time is “bad.” High-quality educational programs can help improve cognitive, language, and social outcomes. For families that find it difficult to modify overall amount of media use in their homes, changing to high-quality content may be a more reasonable alternative. When using apps and games, find options that truly engage the child rather than just swiping or staring at the screen.
Lexington Pediatric Practice has board-certified physicians, caring nurses and staff members who are focused on providing the best care possible for your child. The staff puts your child’s care as the top priority with kid-friendly labs, vaccines and treatments at two convenient locations in Lexington and West Columbia.
3240 Sunset Boulevard
West Columbia, SC 29169