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Should Your Kids Be Cutting Down On Screen Time?

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Since the invention of smartphones and tablets, many parents have welcomed the technology for its ability to distract or educate children. Studies have shown that too much screen time can cause health problems not only for adults, but for children as well. Increasing reports have some parents worried about how much screen time is too much. In an age of constant connection to technology, it is tricky navigating behavioral problems, mental health disorders, and developmental issues as a result of too much time spent in front of a screen.

Slave To The Screen

Parents are often looking for ways to save time and keep their kids entertained and out of trouble. Apps on smartphones and tablets promise to help kids learn new skills or keep them laughing, but at what cost? The siren song of phones and tablets may cause children to have difficulty focusing, communicating, and spend less time being active outdoors. Allowing a child to spend more than two hours a day on a smartphone, tablet, or watching TV may be doing more harm than good.

There are mixed conclusions regarding studies that show a correlation between increased screen time and behavioral problems like ADHD. Parents should avoid allowing toddlers around the age of two or three spend too much time with the screen. Younger children are particularly vulnerable to not hitting specific milestones, or may suffer from inattentiveness and a lull in brain development.

The Results Are In

The National Institute of Health conducted a study costing some $300 million involving 4500 participants. Initial results did confirm that any child was spending two hours or more in front of a screen test lower on language and thinking skills. One thing that parents can do to help is not only set limits for kids but know what their kids are watching. Parents are the ones who are responsible for making sure children get enough physical activity outdoors, socialize with family and friends, and get adequate sleep at night. Both children and adults would benefit from turning off their electronic devices a few hours before bedtime to prevent overstimulation and upsetting their circadian rhythm.

Even if parents make sure kids eat healthily and get adequate physical activity, screen time can prove disruptive. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, any child who spends significant time in front of a screen can suffer an increase in psychological challenges. Physically, too much connection to media can lead to obesity, aggression, moodiness, attention disorders, and sleeping problems. The best solution is for parents to plan how much time kids interact with any media and when.

Know When To Pull The Plug

Educational programming on media is okay, but screen time still deserves to have some set limitations in place. The AAP recommends that youngsters under 18 months should avoid screen time exposure, and kids between ages two and five should spend no more than an hour on media devices. There is no avoiding connection to media, but parents have to set an example for their household. Ultimately, screen time isn’t 100% bad for children and their development, but parents should watch out for changes in behavior or difficulties with hitting milestones.

Parents can best help their kid’s health by assessing the specific needs of their family unit and what they think is acceptable media usage. Making an effort to spend family time and shared meals without any technology around is beneficial. Kids should get adequate exercise daily, and parents should be aware of what media their kids are consuming. Consider talking with a child’s pediatrician if there are any immediate concerns regarding physiological or psychological problems emerging from a youth. Media may be part of the problem, but it is not fully to blame for health issues for children.

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