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Screen Time: How Much Is Too Much?

I saw a 7 year-old in clinic yesterday for his well child check. I asked him what he likes to do and he answered that he liked playing Minecraft. I followed up with “survival or creative?” and mom gave me the look of “how do you even know what that is?” Truth be told, it’s my job. I think it is super important that we know what our children are playing or doing on their screens.

Media fast facts:

(source: American Academy of Pediatrics)

  1. The average American child spends 7 hours a day on entertainment media.
  2. Excessive media can lead to attention problems and school difficulties.
  3. Excessive media can lead to sleep disorders.
  4. Excessive media can lead to eating disorders and obesity.

As if that isn’t enough to freak you out, Internet and cell phones create all sorts of opportunities for kids to engage in risky behaviors (sexting, pornography, cyber bulling, etc.).

What to do?

  1. Establish media free zones. (I am a big believer in no media or cell phones at the dinner table.)
  2. Limit media (cell phones, tablets) in bedrooms, especially after certain hours.
  3. Determine how many minutes a day your child can have screen time. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a max of 2 hours a day. I admit to being strict about this point, and I say no more than 30 mins on school days (except the work that has to be done on computers for homework), and only after homework and chores are done.
  4. No media under age 2. (This is an official recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics). Personally, I think it is impressively difficult to ensure your infant/toddler never sees a screen, especially if you have other children. So I suggest that what they do see is very limited and only educational.

Exposure to media is inevitable. Be selective about what you let in your house. You wouldn’t let a gun-wielding, foul-mouthed, naked bully around your children. So don’t let your children see any of that on your screens at home.