How Much Screen Time Is Too Much?

Health Minute

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As technology evolves, so too does the recommended amount of screen time for young children.

While they once recommended no screen time, now experts agree that children under the age of two. Now, the Academy says children 18 to 24 months of age can engage in screens in a limited capacity. Still, one local pediatrician says parents should be extremely cautious.

“It used to be that television by itself was the only form of media we had, but we’ve seen in the past 10 years a variety of electronic devices – such as video games, cell phones, tablets and readers – fighting for the attention of our families and especially our children,” said Paul Weber, MD.

Screen time that used to come strictly from a television securely planted in a living room has become much more mobile and accessible through the advent of smartphones and tablets. In some cases, this convenience has turned screens into an instant pacifier for young children – a role highly discouraged by organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and professionals like Dr. Weber.

“Now that we can hold electronic devices in our hands, the availability for use makes them almost a constant companion for many of our children,” said Dr. Weber. And in some instances it’s affecting their development, he says.

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Tips for Parents

Dr. Weber said parents should keep the following points in mind:

  • Two-way communication – Children 18 months to 2 years of age should engage in technology only for the use of communicating with a loved-one on applications such as FaceTime or Skype. Do not use screens as a means for entertainment for children under two years old.
  • Educational tool – Once children turn 2 years of age, screens can be introduced as long as they have an educational component and are closely monitored by parents. Dr. Weber says it is important to remember that while technology can play a part in educating children, hands-on learning is still more effective.
  • Establish a gatekeeper – Children should not have constant, open-ended access to any type of technology or device. A parent or guardian should be in charge of how engaged a child is with technology and establish rules around its use. 
  • Create a foundation – The toddler years are a good time to help a child understand expectations that can serve as a strong foundation into their childhood. Parents should re-evaluate their technology plans each year. Once a child hits five years of age the plan may begin to look different including the use of a personalized media plan.
  • Look beyond today – Resist the temptation to veer from your established rules. Raising a toddler can be exhausting and allowing extra use of a device to pacify a child or to gain temporary peace in the home will only push the boundaries that were established to keep a child safe. 

 And in some instances it’s affecting their development, he says.

Click play to watch the video or read video transcript.

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