How much screen time should I allow my children to have?

01 Oct How much screen time should I allow my children to have?

By Marie Marchand

Many parents ask me that question. Everyone loves screen time but we are all worried that too much of it may not be so good. “Screen time” is any time that is spent in front of a screen, such as a TV, computer, or video game player. Screen time is sedentary activity, or being inactive while sitting down. Very little energy is used during screen time. Allowing your children to watch some educational TV per day is acceptable. However, between TV, computers and video games, children today are spending more time parked in front of a screen and less time engaging in hands-on learning and physical activities.

According to the American Association of Pediatrics, children who spend too much time with their attention focused on a screen are more likely to:
• Be obese
• Have irregular sleep habits
• Can increase the chance that your child will develop anxiety and depression
• Develop behavior problems
• Lack communication skills
• Difficulty focusing on tasks
• Lower their academic performance
• Use violence
• Cut down on their creative play time.

Children under age 2 should have no screen time. Limit screen to 1 hour a day for children over age 2. Videos aimed at very young children do not improve their development, in spite of what ads that promote them say.

So what can you do to limit your child’s screen time? It’s easier than you think…

Efforts to reduce screen time work better when children understand how sedentary activity is affecting their health, and they learn they can do things to get healthier.
Ways to decrease screen time:
• Remove the television or computer from your child’s bedroom.
• Do not let your child eat while watching TV or using the computer.
• Do not leave the TV on for background noise. Turn on the radio instead, or have no background noise.
• Decide which programs to watch ahead of time, and turn off the TV when the program is over.
• Suggest other activities, such as a family board game, puzzle, or going for a walk.
• Keep a record of how much time is spent in front of a screen. Try to spend the same amount of time being active.
• Be a good role model as a parent. Decrease your own screen time to 2 hours a day.
• If it is hard not having the TV on, try using the sleep function so it turns off automatically.
• Challenge your family to go 1 week without watching TV or doing other screen-time activity. Find things to do with your time that get you moving and burning energy.
• Eat meals and snacks at the family table and not in front of the TV.
• Provide your child with alternative activities that encourage creative play.

What advice do you have for limiting screen time? We want to know! Leave us a comment below.