Most American children spend about 3 hours a day watching TV. Add to that all other types of screen time and it can total 5 to 7 hours a day! Excessive screen time can make it hard for your child to sleep at night. It can also raise the risk of attention problems, anxiety, depression and poor academic performance. The more time your child spends watching a screen, the less time he spends being physically active and this can lead to obesity. TV commercials and other screen ads can lead to unhealthy food choices, as the ads aimed at kids often promote food that is high in sugar, salt or fats. Children tend to eat more when watching TV, especially when the see ads for food.
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests children under age 2 should have no screen time at all. Parents should instead encourage more interactive activities, such as playing and talking. Children over age 2 should be limited to 1 to 2 hours a day. Videos aimed at very young children do not improve their development despite what advertisements say.
Tips to Cut Down on Screen Time
Put computers and TV where you can keep an eye on what kids are viewing.
No TV during meals, homework, or when getting ready for school in the morning.
Don't use the TV as a babysitter.
Don't leave the TV on for background noise. Try the radio or none at all.
Don't let children eat while watching TV or using the computer.
Decide what programs to watch ahead of time, turn the TV off when those programs are over.
Watch programs with your kids and talk about what you see, such as family values or bullies.
Suggest other family activities, such as board games, puzzles or going for a walk.
Keep a record of screen time and try to spend as much time being active.
If it is too hard not having the TV on, try using a sleep function that turns it off automatically.
Challenge your family to go one week without watching TV or other screen time activities.
Allow your child to be bored! This is when they learn to be creative and develop the ability to engage in meaningful play.
As a parent, limit the time you spend watching TV or on your phone. Children will model their parents' behavior. Perhaps this is the most important tip to help your children have healthy technology habits. They will follow your lead!
Find activities to do with your free time that will get your family moving and burning energy. This could be as simple as taking a walk, or hike down a nature trail. Going in your backyard and doing cartwheels, or planting flowers. The possibilities are endless when it comes to children!