Everyone loves screen time. Whether it is watching a movie, playing a video game, reading the news, or talking with friends, technology is at the center of all of our lives. Media and screen time, like most things, should be used in moderation. While technology use is important in most facets of life today, too much screen time has been linked to obesity, difficulty sleeping, problems in school, aggressive behavior, and bullying. It is important to help your child find a healthy balance. A few simple guidelines can help keep screen time in check for you and your family:
- Remove all screens from the bedroom. Kids with TVs in the bedroom have been found to watch 1 ½ hour more TV than kids without TVs in the bedroom. TVs in the bedroom have also been linked to obesity. Availability of internet and texting in your child’s bedroom gives them unmonitored access to anything on the internet. Keep all screens (including your own) out of the bedroom. Try setting up a charging station for all devices in a common area.
- Monitor what your children are doing during their screen time! Just like you would ask who they are spending time with on the weekend, ask who they are spending time with on social media. It is important to teach children what is and is not appropriate to share on social media. Also, be aware of the websites they are going to and the apps they are using. Play apps and video games with them! Then you know what they are doing and if it is appropriate.
- Make sure screen time is age-appropriate and educational. Not sure if a movie or video game is good for your child? Check out commonsensemedia.org. This website is run by a nonprofit organization that provides independent ratings for movies, TV shows, video games, and apps. It provides you with a summary of the game or video and suggested ages for appropriate use.
- Limit screen time for everyone in the family. All children should spend no more than 2 hours in front of a screen for non-school purposes. Think of things you can do as a family that do not involve a screen: go for a walk, play a board game, go to the park, or read a book together. Any activity that provides family interaction is preferred to screen time!
- No screens after dinner. We know that looking at a screen keeps your body from releasing melatonin. Without melatonin, you don’t feel sleepy when bedtime comes. Sleep is important to help with mood, concentration, and learning. If sleep is a problem for your child, try a screen fast (by eliminating electronic device use for a few weeks) to see if this helps restore a good sleep pattern.
Screen use is here to stay. Help your child form good, healthy screen habits!
-Ashlee Mickelson, MD Pediatrician