Screen time refers to the amount of time spent watching a television, computer, game console, or cell phone screen. With the increased usage of media, the average screen time has risen drastically from just a generation ago. An increasing number of pediatricians urge parents to recognize that high amounts of screen time can have several negative results, including:
- Health – Excessive time spent in front of the computer or a television means less time spent doing other activities such as playing sports, interacting with peers, or developing outside interests. If your child’s school does not have a physical fitness program, your child may be at additional risk for developing obesity.
- Academics – Children who watch excessive amounts of TV will often shirk academic responsibilities for the appeal of media. Setting a strict school-first policy with your child can help correct this, in addition to limiting the overall amount of time allowed to watch TV. If allowed, children will often choose to stay up late to watch television, resulting in less sleep and tiredness while at school the next day. Even one hour of lost sleep can prevent your child from focusing and retaining information.
- Social – The average 8 to 18-year-old spends over 7 hours interacting with media every day. Children who choose to watch television or play computer games rather than interact with friends may struggle with social development. This can create social anxiety, bullying and behavioral problems.
Some television viewing can be productive; there are many educational programs on various broadcasting stations that can provide historical, cultural and educational benefits for viewers. Encourage your children to watch these programs and watch with your child to enjoy them together. Likewise, if you have a game console or computer with games for your child, play those games together and limit the time played. Otherwise, limiting screen time is the best way to negate the development of potentially harmful side effects.
If you are concerned about the time your child spends with media but do not know how to approach the situation, please contact your family practice specialist at Pediatrix at (602) 866-0550.
Subir K. Mitra, MD, FAAP
Posted in Blog on April 26th, 2012