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Screen Time: How Much Is Too Much?

by Dr. Susan Canizares | November 1, 2017 | Child Development

shutterstock_370347713How much screen time is too much? What should my child be watching? When do I limit their usage, and how? These are common questions that many parents struggle with in this age where technology is everywhere! While technology is more readily available and can be a wonderful source of learning, even for children as young as two, it comes with some distinct disadvantages and should be monitored closely.

Some of the downfalls of unsupervised technology use and overuse include:

  • It may encourage a short attention span.
  • Exposure to inappropriate content
  • It may lead to less physical activity.
  • It can lead to less face-to-face interaction time.

Although it sounds simple, limiting screen time can be easier said than done. It is easy to let your child turn on the TV or hand them your phone to watch videos or play games when they complain of boredom. While you may not be able to completely eliminate technology, there are ways to limit the daily use.

  • Find alternatives to technology. For example, play board games, go to the park, or read a book.
  • Keep technology out of the dining room. Put the devices away and make sure your family meals are full of conversation instead of scrolling. This is a wonderful way to find out about what your child is happy about or struggling with.
  • Don’t put a TV in your child’s room. This will enable you to monitor and talk with your child about the content they see on television.
  • Limit screen time. Come up with what you think is an acceptable amount of weekly screen time for your child and be sure to stick to it.
  • Interact instead of distract. If you typically use your phone to distract your child while you prepare and cook dinner, instead find an activity they can do to help you. Encourage them to spread sauce over noodles or help you measure out milk. Older children can help by cutting vegetables. If you don’t have anything safe for your child to do while you prepare dinner, give them some stickers or crayons and paper so they can color.

If you are unsure of an approximate time that your child should be using technology, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends the following:

  • 18 months and younger should have no screen time or be exposed to any digital media.
  • 2- to 5-year-olds can be introduced to screen time, but only for an hour a day.
  • For 6-year-olds and older children, it is based on parents’ discretion, though screen time should be calculated after school and homework, at least an hour of physical activity, meal times, and sleep.

Setting limits on technology use and social media is a start, but it is important for your children to see you sticking to your own rules. Create a space for cell phones and tablets to go while eating so that you aren’t tempted to check your email. Use this technology-free time to have relaxed conversations with your child.