Screen Time: When to Say No

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In today's world, we're constantly exposed to technology whether from TV, cell phones, video games, tablets, or social media. While these devices and outlets can help us socialize and learn, they also often lead to a sedentary, inactive lifestyle and lead to other problems that can affect our, or our children's, daily lives.

This begs the question: how much screen time is too much and what are the effects of too much screen time? Technology in excess can be harmful, but a recent study suggests that a moderate amount can actually benefit children.

Published in the Annals of Neurology, the study suggests that a limited amount of screen time may actually improve a child's motor skills, reaction time, and academic performance.

The study recorded the video game habits of 2,400 boys and girls in Barcelona, Spain between the ages 7 and 11. Children who played video games for one hour per week were found to have a faster reaction time, higher test scores, and improved communication between the brain circuits central to learning.

However, the study also suggested that children who spent high levels of time gaming exhibited negative behavior. Children who were shown to play over nine hours a week got less sleep, had more conduct problems with other children, and exhibited poorer social skills.

In 2013, the American Academy of Pediatrics(AAP) revealed that average 8- to 10-year-olds were in front of a screen up to eight hours a day, and 11 hours a day for some teens.

Indira Abraham-Pratt, PhD, a psychologist at AdventHealth who works with children, weighs in on the issue. She says the healthy amount of time spent in front of a screen varies from family to family. However, as a rule, she advises following the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidelines, which were revised just this week at the AAPs national conference in San Francisco.

New Screen Guidelines from American Academy of Pediatrics
Realizing most families are surrounded by digital media 24/7, the academy moved away from their earlier recommendation of no more than one or two hours per day. New screen time guidelines focus on time spent using digital media for entertainment purposes. However, the AAP doesn't include online homework as screen time.

The new recommendations:

Children 2 to 5 years of age screen time limited to one hour per day.
Kids ages 6 and older Their parents can determine restrictions for time spent using screen, as well as monitoring the types of digital media their children use.
Babies Infants aged 18 months and younger should not be exposed to any digital media, the academy said.

So, what can families do?
If you're looking to cut back and spend more quality time together, Dr. Abraham-Pratt suggests hosting a family meeting to have all members track their screen time.
After a few weeks, meet again and work together to set a plan everyone can follow. Add goals, guidelines and fun activities for the entire family. Discuss consequences if the rules are violated. Then monitor the log and set a good example.
By setting limits, encouraging socialization, and monitoring your child's gaming and screen time habits, you are bound to put your child on the path to success.

If you're looking to cut back and spend more quality time together, Dr. Abraham-Pratt suggests hosting a family meeting to have all members track their screen time.

After a few weeks, meet again and work together to set a plan everyone can follow. Add goals, guidelines and fun activities for the entire family. Discuss consequences if the rules are violated. Then monitor the log and set a good example.

Click here to download a Screen Time Tracking Chart.

By setting limits, encouraging socialization, and monitoring your child's gaming and screen time habits, you are bound to put your child on the path to success.

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