Growing up in the twenty-first century, children and adolescents have become accustomed to the central role technology plays in their everyday lives. From an early age, today’s youth seem to know instinctively how to work the latest gadgets. While advances in technology have yielded increased access to educational resources, the amount of time children and adolescents spend today staring at a screen has reached new heights.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (2013) cited the following statistics from a Kaiser Family Foundation study in 2010:
- The average 8- to 10-year old spends approximately 8 hours a day using different types of media
- Older children and teenagers spend over 11 hours per day using different types of media
Time spent on smart phones, tablets, video games, and television can cut into important parts of youths’ already busy schedules. Carving out time during the day when parents and their children can interact without the interruption or distraction of technology can go a long way in facilitating healthy communication. Moreover, children and adolescents often need significantly more sleep than what they currently receive. Limiting screen time before bed can improve children’s total duration and quality of sleep. Lastly, screen time often results in sedentary behavior, which reduces children’s opportunities to go out and play and receive adequate physical activity.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following with regard to screen time:
- For children under 2 years: No screen media exposure
- For children over 2 years: No more than 2 hours per day of entertainment screen media
- Keep televisions and internet-connected electronic devices out of children’s bedrooms
For parents of children and adolescents who are spending significantly more than 2 hours day using technology for entertainment:
- Start small. Long-term behavior change often is most successful when implemented gradually. Try initially reducing your child’s weekly screen time by 30 minutes.
- Have an open and honest family discussion about how everyone in the house can work to adopt healthier screen time limits.