When managed correctly, screen time with your child and teenager can be positive. Programming on screens can be educational, expose your child to other cultures, and help you connect as a family.
But when your child spends too much time in front of screens, they can experience a number of unhealthy consequences. Screen time is part of life for most children, which might have you wondering how much is appropriate.
Rainilda Valencia, MD, Micaela Marin-Tucker, PA-C, and Megan Reynolds, C-PNP, pediatric care specialists at Valencia Pediatrics in Victorville, California, share the safe amount of screen time for children and teenagers and how you can develop a screen-watching plan.
The challenges of excessive screen time
Screen time, which includes playing video games and watching TV and films, using computers, tablets, and smartphones, can be positive or neutral when your child accesses the right content in appropriate amounts. However, when screen time becomes too much or includes content that isn’t empowering for your child, it can cause a number of problems.
The consequences of too much screen time can include:
- Increased risk of childhood obesity
- Behavioral challenges
- More difficulty sleeping
- Poor performance in school
- Feeling less connected to others
- Lower self-esteem
Staring at screens for long periods also prevents your child from finding other ways to entertain themselves when not involved in structured activities. This can reduce your child’s overall creativity and sense of fun and play.
What is too much screen time?
The amount of screen time appropriate for your child depends on their age. The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry makes the following recommendations, which you can modify based on your child’s needs.
Under 18 months
Only use screens to talk on video to a close adult who isn’t at home, with either a parent or caregiver present with your child.
Use screens only for educational programs with a parent or caregiver assisting.
Aside from educational programs, allow no more than one hour of screen time on weekdays and three hours on weekends.
Age 6 and up
Limit screens in a way that makes sense for your child and family, and encourage your child to access programming that’s educational and encourages healthy self-image and connections with others.
Turn off programming when your family is eating meals or doing other activities together. Older children and teenagers should also turn off screens 30 minutes before bedtime to promote good sleep.
Creating a healthy screen-time plan
In consultation with your other family members and your older child or teenager, you can create a plan that keeps their screen time at healthy levels and includes programming the entire family supports. Aim to agree as a family on screen time issues such as:
- How much daily screen time your child can have
- Which programs your child can watch and play
- Which devices your child can possess
- What time of night your child turns off screens
You can set a good example by showing your child how to facilitate using screens in a positive and uplifting manner. You can also get to know the programming your child likes to watch and play, as well as the most common advertising shown during these times.
By maintaining open communication and a positive relationship with your child, you can be part of making screen time healthy.
Our team can help advise on the screen time suitable for your child and how to develop a personalized plan at your child’s well-child exam or other appointment. Contact us today for guidance and assistance in forming a screen-time plan for your child.