MPH Blog

Are My Kids Spending Too Much Time in Front of the Screen?

Are My Kids Spending Too Much Time in Front of the Screen?

Parents now have a new concern that previous generations did not have to worry so much about: Whether or not their kids are spending too much time in front of TV, computer, and phone screens. Maybe this is something you worry about too!

There are two sides to this question. On the one hand, outside play and social interaction are crucial parts of every child’s development, growth, and learning. Being active and spending face time with other children remain vital to a child’s physical, emotional, and intellectual well-being.

On the other hand, savvy parents today accept that screens are a part of their children’s lives—and they aren’t going away anytime soon. They ignore the media hype and negativity that surrounds childhood screen time, because they see the value in these experiences for their children, at least with limits. A TLF Panel survey discovered that four out of every five parents believe technology is good for their kids. They know that it is important for children in today’s world to be tech savvy.

What Does the Data Say?

A 2015 report by Cambridge University found that screen time can affect grades. In this study, the habits of 800 teenagers were analyzed at age 14 and then their GCSE results were reviewed at age 16. The average screen time of 14 year-olds was four hours. Children who spent an extra hour per day on various “screens” had lower GCSE results, equivalent to approximately two overall grades.

Other dangers may include:

  • Exposure to dangerous material including pornography and violent content
  • Cyber bullying
  • Decreased social skills
  • Poor health caused by sedentary lifestyles

Finding a Balance

There are both benefits and risks associated with childhood screen time. Computers, tablets, phones, and even televisions can be fantastic learning aides with exciting opportunities for growth, development, and social interaction. Children can learn new things, find answers to questions that intrigue them, and discover opportunities to express themselves and to interact with others. But too much screen time can have downsides, too, as outlined above.

The question is, where is the balance? How do modern parents help their children prepare for an increasingly plugged-in world while also experiencing healthy, active, imaginative, and playful childhoods? Because this is the first generation to grow up with access to so many screens, parents feel they need to step carefully and make wise judgment calls on their own.

Here are some useful tips as you strive to help your children find balance:

  1. Set up limits. Establish boundaries for your child so he / she does not spend too much time staring at a screen. Decide the time limits that are right for your family and for your child. The United States Department of Health recommends children under two years old not be exposed to screens whatsoever, and children over two should not be exposed to screens for more than two hours per day. Whatever is right for your child, set rules and stick to them.

2.Make sure your child stays active. Physical activity is crucial to your child’s health and development. An increasing body of medical research is linking childhood obesity to health problems later. Help your child make healthy decisions that will stick with him / her for life.

3.Stay involved. Do you know what your child is being exposed to? When it comes to online bullying, pornography, and other dangerous content online, don’t think, “It couldn’t happen to my child.” There is truly damaging content just clicks away for any Internet user, and cyber bullying is a real and growing problem. Protect your child by staying involved and staying alert. For young children, use parental blocks, set up monitors, and check search histories. Give your child more freedom as he / she earns your trust. Keep an open line of communication about what your child is doing and seeing online. Make sure that your child doesn’t use the Internet in the bedroom; keep the computer in the family room or another main area of the house.

If you have questions, our team at Monterey Park Hospital is here to help. Ask your doctor about childhood exercise and guidelines for physical wellness.

This article contains general information about medical conditions and treatments. The information is not advice and should not be treated as such. The information is not intended to replace the advice or diagnosis of a physician.