Experts Advise ‘Screen Free’ Zones, Times, for Children

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Health officials recommend “screen free zones” and limited media exposure for children in order to facilitate their development and avoid health and behavioral issues later in life. 

Children spend an average of seven hours a day consuming media content from television, video games, computers, and mobile devices, according to the American Academy of PediatricsOff Site Icon (AAP). This level of exposure can have a negative impact on the child’s overall well-being, and even leave them vulnerable to predators, according to the AAP.

The Effects of Media Overexposure on Children

There is little time left in the day for family interaction when children are so saturated with different forms of media, according to the American Psychological AssociationOff Site Icon (APA). In addition to the average seven hours a day consuming media, children spend an average of six to seven hours a day in school, and seven to eight hours a night sleeping, according to the APA.

When children, particularly preschool kids, are overexposed to media, they are deprived of much-needed creative play, social interaction, physical activity and interaction with parents and caregivers.

According to the APA, children who are overexposed to media are more likely to:

  • Adopt sexual behavior
  • Be exposed to cyber-bullying
  • Become obese
  • Form a screen-time habit
  • Have lower academic performance
  • Use tobacco, drug, or alcohol

Girls typically spend more time on social media, according to the APA, while boys usually engage in gaming and watching YouTube. Overall, boys consume more media than girls, according to the APA.

How to Limit Media Exposure

There are steps that parents can take to limit their children’s’ exposure to media. Limiting exposure and increasing family and social interaction is an important part of a child’s healthy development, according to the APA.

“We recommend limiting screen time to one hour per day. According to the American Academy pf Pediatrics, young children who played with traditional toys and blocks, interacted better with caregivers in terms of speech and communication than those using electronics,” said Paul Weber, MD, of The Pediatric Group, a Premier Physician Network practice. 

According to the APA, parents can limit media exposure by:

  • Doing different things with kids, things appropriate for their ages
  • Establish a “screen-free” zone by keeping TV, computer, and other electronic media out of the child’s bedroom 
  • Having screen-free days 
  • Limiting the amount of time kids can use media and monitoring it
  • Not eating in front of the TV — rather making meals an opportunity for interaction 
  • Not leaving the TV on as a background sound
  • Planning what children can watch and play with, and share your rules with them
  • Talking about media with other parents to learning from their experiences
  • Watching TV with and talking to children about images, messages, and content

The AAP recommends that children under two have no screen time, and that children older than two consume media no more than one to two hours a day. 

For more information on kids and media, or to find a Premier Physician Network physician near you, visit us online

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