For the first “official” blog post, I thought we could start out with something that pretty much all parents must address at some point: screen time. About 99% of American homes have at least one television and American children spend an average of 28 hours a week watching television1. In addition, on average, American children spend 7 hours a day in front of a screen2! Is this too much? Is it a reasonable amount? If they are watching educational programs, does that make a difference?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recognizes that there are potential problems when a child spends too much time in front of the television or other types of media. They report that there have been studies that show that too much “screen time” (that is, any time spent in front of a screen such as television, video games, iPads, smartphones, etc.) may cause long-lasting struggles for children such as obesity, learning disorders, and even sleep and eating disorders!
Fortunately, the AAP has set guidelines to help parents avoid these problems that may arise from too much screen time. For young children, the AAP recommends no screen time until the age of 2 years old. After the age of two, the AAP recommends limiting your child’s screen time to 1-2 hours of quality programs each day. They recommend that during this allotted period of screen time, there should be strict monitoring of what the child is watching or playing. Media that promotes violence, drug use, and sexual content should not be permitted. Positive and educational programs are preferred; however, even if all of the media is educational, they still recommend keeping a limit of 1-2 hours per day.
What can you do in the meantime? This is a great time to talk to your children. This will build up relationships within the family and draw the family together as a whole. Also, keep in mind that when you are talking to your children (teenagers, in particular), even though they seem to be disengaged and not listening, your children listen to everything that you say. Use this time to teach them about good morals and character! Limiting screen time will give you more opportunity to interact and exercise with your children by playing with them. Go to the park, or just spend time playing outside. Crafts, activities or games are also great ways to spend this time. Lastly, encourage your child to read! This is a great method of education and it also allows them to expand their imagination by envisioning the events as they read.
Our culture is geared toward constant screen time, but it is not healthy for our children to constantly be in front of a screen. “Screen Free Week” is April 29 through May 5 which would be a great time to try out different activities with your family away from the screens! Your family may like it more than they expect!