Health and Mind: Effects of Screen Time and Media on Children
Published at 15:00 on Saturday, August 27, 2022
By Amy Williams
MRS. RD. LD. LDE
We’ve all heard how screen time and computer games can be harmful to children, but we often wonder, “How harmful can it be or how much is too much?” Most kids today are hooked on television or video games long before they start school. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation:
• Two-thirds of babies and toddlers look at a screen an average of 2 hours a day.
• Children under the age of 6 watch an average of about 2 hours of screen media per day, mostly TV and videos or DVDs.
• Children and adolescents aged 8 to 18 spend almost 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 children under 2 watch no screens 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 inhibit the exploration, play, and interaction with parents and others that encourages learning and healthy physical and social development. As children 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 harmful as children who consistently spend more than four hours a day looking at a screen are more likely to be overweight; children who see violent acts are more likely to display aggressive behavior, but also fear that the world is scary and that something bad will happen to them; and television characters often depict risky behaviors, such as smoking and drinking, and also reinforce stereotypes of gender and racial roles.
There are several options for parents to limit media time with children, including:
• Keep screens out of bedrooms.
• Turn off screens during meals.
• Do not allow children to watch any media while doing homework
Treat TV and screen time as a privilege to be earned – not a right. Set and enforce family electronic viewing rules, such as screens are only allowed after chores and homework are completed.
Try a weekday ban. Schoolwork, sports activities, and work responsibilities make it difficult to find extra family time during the week. Record weekday shows or save TV time for the weekends, and you’ll have more family time to spend on meals, games, physical activity, and reading during the week.
Set a good example by limiting your TV and electronic viewing.
Check TV listings and program reviews in advance for programs your family can watch together. Choose shows that stimulate interest and learning for hobbies and education (reading, science, etc…)
Watch programs before your children do.
Come up with a family TV schedule that you all agree on each week.
Watch TV together. If you can’t sit through the entire program, at least watch the first few minutes to gauge the tone and fit, then check in throughout the show.
Talk to children about what they see in electronics and share your beliefs and values. If something comes up on the screen that you don’t approve of, you can turn it off and then take the opportunity to ask thought-provoking questions.
The Clark County Health Department offers programs for the whole family, including Tobacco Freedom, WIC, HANDS, family planning and well-child care/immunizations. For more information on all of our services, please call 859/744-4482 or visit our website at www.clarkhealthdept.org. You can also “like” us on Facebook.