According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, kids ages 8-18 spend an average of 7.5 hours per day in front of a screen for entertainment. This number does not include time spent with a screen for school or educational purposes.
There’s no question that now, more than ever before, screens play a big role in our lives. People of all ages rely on their screens to connect with others and get information, and for entertainment purposes.
The amount of screen time kids get should be based on age. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours of screen time for kids and teens. Children younger than two years old should not have any screen time; if they do, it should be very limited and have an educational purpose.
There’s a reason lower amounts of screen time are recommended for kids. Spending too much time with a screen can lead to:
- Vision issues
- Increased risk for being overweight or obese
- Decreased muscle tone, coordination and flexibility
- Stunted communication skills
- Reduced empathy for others
- Agitation and restlessness
Under your guidance, it’s possible for kids to spend less time with their screens. Try these seven ideas:
- Set a schedule – Have specific times when your kids can use their screens. For example, after they finish their homework, they can use their screens before dinner. Kids thrive on routine and having a set schedule to use their screens helps them wisely use their time.
- Use a tracking app – It can be difficult for parents to keep track of how long their kids are spending on their screens. A tracking app can do that for you and can even set limits that will turn the device off after a predetermined amount of time. Just make sure you give your kids a heads up that this will happen so they are prepared.
- Encourage other activities – Take some of the things your kids love to do online and move them to real life. For example, if your kids like to play games online, replace it with a chess board, puzzles or art activities. It’s also a good idea to encourage regular physical activity. Schedule time as a family to take a walk after dinner or go for a weekly bike ride.
- Keep screens out of the bedroom – If it’s not possible to keep screens out of the bedroom, at least turn off notifications when it’s time to go to bed. Another idea is charging a phone in the hallway so your child isn’t tempted to look at it when he or she should be sleeping.
- Set a good example – Kids look to the adults in their lives as an example for how they should behave. Make sure you take time away from your own screens to connect with your kids. Another idea is to keep all screens away from the dinner table – and make sure your own phone is tucked away in another room.
- Focus on quality instead of quantity – Have your kids pick the things they really value. Have them ask themselves what they enjoy versus what they mindlessly scroll through. For example, if they love chatting with family members and friends, encourage them to use their screens for that purpose.
- Gradually increase access to technology – When getting a cell phone or tablet for your child, slowly increase access to the technology. Also consider how much technology you’re making available to your kids. For example, if you just want to track when they are going to the park, look at getting a tracking watch instead of a cell phone. Once you give them access to technology, it’s harder to step away from it. Only get them what they need.
If you need help managing your kids’ screen time, a primary care provider can help. If your child or teen seems depressed or anxious when using their screens, it may be time to talk to a Linden Oaks Behavioral Health therapist. We can provide the help your child needs to feel better and use screens in a healthier way. To learn more, make an appointment online or call us at 630-527-6363.