In Part 1 of this series on media consumption by children, I shared some frightening statistics offered by the American Academy of Pediatrics in the policy statement “Children, Adolescents, and the Media.” Those statistics illustrate just how pervasive “screen time” has become for kids. It’s not just television but all forms of media, including iPads and tablets, cell phones, video games and social media. Let’s discuss tips to decrease screen time.
The American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Communications and Media encourages healthcare providers to ask young patients and parents two questions:
• How much recreational screen time does your child or teenager consume daily?
• Is there a TV set or an Internet-connected electronic device (computer, iPad, cell phone) in the child’s or teenager’s bedroom?
If you are a parent of teenagers or younger children, I would strongly encourage you to ask yourself those questions. Assess just how much time your kids spend with these devices and how they use them. Then take steps to improve their behaviors and decrease screen time.
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Recommendations for kids’ media use to decrease screen time
Here are some simple steps to cut down on the time your kids spend watching TV, texting on cell phones, engaging in social media and more:
• Decrease screen time to no more than 1 to 2 hours per day. This limit must apply to all forms of screen time – TV, computers, tablets, cell phones and video games. Instead, they should go outside and play. They can play sports. Or they can spend time with family and friends (doing activities other than watching TV or playing video games).
• Ban cell phone use during meals, and turn off phones, tablets and computers at a set time every night.
• Remove TVs from kids’ bedrooms. Also consider removing any device, like a laptop or tablet, that they can use to access the Internet from their bedrooms.
• Have a discussion with your kids about these media and the time they spend on it. Instead of banning it without explanation and possibly making them resent it, focus on the positive aspects of play, exercise, sports and time with family and friends.
• Limit your own screen time. Kids won’t understand or follow your rules with media if they see you constantly checking your phone, texting, watching TV or playing on your computer. Turn those devices off in front of your kids and spend time with them instead.
If you missed Part 1 of this series, read it to see some statistics that show you just how big of a problem media consumption is for children today.
Children, Adolescents, and the Media. Council on Communications and Media. Pediatrics 2013;132;958; originally published online October 28, 2013.