Today’s children and teenagers have grown up with a vast array of electronic devices at their fingertips. Since this sort of technology wasn’t available to previous generations, it can be difficult for parents to know exactly how to set rules to limit screen time for children.
After all, most kids are fascinated by TV, computers, video games, and smart phones. Allowing kids to use electronics is one of the easiest ways to keep them entertained over long periods of time. However, it appears that many kids are going overboard with all that screen time and media use.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children and teens only be allowed a total of one to two hours of entertainment media per day. Despite those recommendations, children between the ages of 8 and 18 are averaging 7 ½ hours of entertainment media per day, according to a 2010 study by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.
The Negative Effects of Too Much Screen Time
Many negative effects have been linked to children and teens being allowed to too much video game, TV, smartphone, and computer use. In addition to exposure to online predators, lack of social interaction with peers, and lack of engagement in other healthy activities, too much screen time has been linked to the following:
- Obesity –Too much time engaging in sedentary activity, such as watching TV and playing video games, can be a risk factor for children becoming overweight.
- Sleep Problems – Although many parents try to use TV as a way to help kids wind down before bed, allowing children screen time before bed can actually interfere with their sleep and cause them to stay up later, according to a study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
- Behavior Problems- Elementary school-age children who watch TV or use a computer more than two hours per day are more likely to have emotional, social, and attention problems, according to the Mayo Clinic website. Excessive TV viewing has even been linked to increased bullying behavior.
- Educational Problems- Elementary school-age children who have televisions in their bedrooms tend to do worse on academic testing.
- Violence- Exposure to violent TV shows, movies, music and video games can cause children to become desensitized to it. Eventually, they may use violence to solve problems and may imitate what they see on TV, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
Establishing Rules with Electronics
Kids need rules that will not just limit their screen time, but that will also monitor what they are able to do with electronic media. Most children and teens don’t have enough self-discipline to be able to effectively monitor their own media use. Therefore, it’s essential that parents establish rules for electronics use to keep screen time and technology from causing physical, emotional, social and academic problems.
- Establish Safety Rules – Kids need rules to keep them safe from cyberbullying, online predators and exposure to violence. Establish household rules that include rules about electronics that will decrease potential risk factors.
- Establish Rules that Promote Social Skills– Children and teens who spend too much time using electronic media may struggle with social skills. Although many teens may argue that texting is socializing, it’s pretty clear that it is a much different type of socializing than face-to-face interaction. Establish rules that will encourage your child to participate in plenty of real-life social activities and set limits on electronics, such as, “No texting at the dinner table.”
- Establish Rules that Promote Good Health – Kids need rules that will teach life skills, such as how to keep their mind and body healthy. Establish rules that will limit your child’s sedentary activity. Also, establish rules that will allow you to monitor what your child is viewing so that exposure to violence and non-educational material is kept to a minimum.
The American Academy of Pediatrics. Media and Children.
The American Academy of Pediatrics. More TV Before Bedtime Linked to Later Sleep Onset in Children.
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8 to 18 Year Olds.
Borzekowski, D., Hancox, R., Zimmerman, F. (July, 2005). Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, July 2005; vol 159: pp 607-613, 614-618, 619-625.
American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Children and TV Violence.