700 Children's Blog

Limiting Your Child's Screen Time

Dec 09, 2013

Raise your hand if you’ve ever seen a family of four out to dinner, table silent, each person looking down, scrolling through content on a handheld screen. Now raise your hand if you’ve ever been a member of that family. Yeah… me too… and I’m not exactly proud of it. I guess the trouble got started when the first television set popped up inside the American living room and the nightly huddle over family dinner gave way to TV trays and zombie eyes. Next came the video game. Pretty soon, we had cable TV and VCRs. We called this progress.

But look, folks, that was nothing! Enter the age of personal computers. Internet. DVRs. Wireless connections. iPhones. Android. iPads. A screen in every pocket. It’s amazing how far we’ve come! It’s also amazing how far we’ve fallen.

They say all magic comes with a price. This includes technological magic. The average American child consumes more than 7 hours of screen-based entertainment each day. 7 hours! Can we agree that’s a crazy big number? And is it any wonder the cost of our flagrant over-use is so high? Study after study has painted a clear picture of the impact: obesity, poor school performance, attention problems, aggression, conduct problems, poor sleep, eating disorders, diminished mental well-being, illicit activities, risky behaviors, and disrupted interpersonal relationships between parents and their children.

Wow. Is all this screen time really worth the cost? The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t think so. In a recent statement on children and media, the AAP calls for parents to limit entertainment screen time to 1-2 hours per day of high-quality, supervised content. Here are some other suggestions based on their statement:

  • Develop a “family media use plan” with clear guidelines for each device, including how long and how often.
  • Keep all screens, large and small, out of the bedroom.
  • Don’t watch screens during meals. Look at each other. Talk.
  • Don’t allow children under the age of 2 to watch any screens at all. Their little brains are developing rapidly and need lots of human interaction.
  • Watch TV and play video games with your children and teens. When questionable content arises, use it as a teaching opportunity. When advertising persuades, counter with truth.
  • Use established rating systems to help avoid unnecessary exposure to violence, explicit sexual content, and the glorified use of alcohol, tobacco and recreational drugs.
  • Be a role model. Moms and dads should follow these rules too!

Okay… I know what you’re thinking… “One to two hours of screen time per day? Isn’t that a little drastic? Weren’t you the one raising your hand, admitting to being a member of that family?” Yes. Guilty as charged. Truth be told, desperate times call for desperate measures when two-thirds of American children live in a home with absolutely no limits placed upon their screen time. Two-thirds! Another crazy big number.

Screen time is spinning out of control.

Why? Because parents are just as addicted as the kids! After a busy day of work, we want to kick back and escape behind a screen. Don’t do it. Moms and dads have a second shift. It’s what we signed up for. After work, get home and get involved with your kids. Play hide and seek. Read a story. Break out the deck of cards and the Monopoly board. Help your kids with a hobby. Go outside. Toss a ball. Run around.

Put those screens down and start building relationships with one another. Quick. Before it’s too late!

Featured Expert

Mike Patrick, MD
Emergency Medicine, Physician Team; Interactive Media, Medical Director; Host of PediaCast

Dr Mike Patrick is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Ohio State University College of Medicine and Medical Director of Interactive Media for Nationwide Children's Hospital. Since 2006, he has hosted the award-winning PediaCast, a pediatric podcast for parents. Millions of listeners in all 50 U.S. states and over 100 countries have tuned-in to this weekly podcast for pediatric news, answers to listener questions and interviews with pediatric and parenting experts. Dr Mike also produces a national podcast for healthcare providers—PediaCast CME, which explores general pediatric and faculty development topics and offers free AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™ to listeners. In addition to podcasting, Dr Mike serves as a Spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics and with the Executive Committee of the AAP’s Council on Communications and Media. He frequently shares evidence-based recommendations with television, newspaper and radio audiences, including a weekly health segment on local CBS affiliate 10TV. He is a featured author of the 700 Children's Blog and has contributed to several print publications, including Parents Magazine and Working Mother Magazine. Dr Mike also developed and directs an academic healthcare communications and social media curriculum for residents and medical students at Ohio State. This elective experience equips learners with the practical skills needed to promote health literacy and child advocacy in the digital space. Prior to his involvement with communications and media, Dr Mike spent 10 years as a general pediatrician in an underserved area. He currently practices with the Section of Emergency Medicine at Nationwide Children's in Columbus.

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700 Children’s features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.