To help distract a child’s attention while busy with household tasks, easy sources of entertainment such as the TV can be a tempting solution. However, even though televisions, computers, phones and tablets can quickly grab kids' attention, parents still have to deal with the struggle on how to limit this exposure.
This issue definitely warrants concern, considering that the average American child spends seven hours a day in front of a screen. A variety of studies have shown that excessive screen time can lead to problems with attention, school troubles, sleep and obesity.
With the holiday break quickly approaching, here are a few helpful suggestions for families looking to decrease their child's screen time and get them engaged in other activities.
- Total screen time should be limited to two hours a day. This includes TV, video games, phones, tablets and computers.
- Avoid TV and screens for infants and children under 2 years old. Having your baby or toddler interact with other people is extremely beneficial during this period of rapid brain growth, especially for language development.
- Create "screen-free" zones at home. No computers, video games, phones, or TVs in your child or teen's bedroom.
- Keep the TV off during dinner and put phones away so you can spend time as a family.
- When picking TV shows, look for choices that are educational and teach good values. Choose programs that model good behavior, interpersonal skills or relate to the child's interests.
- Have your child watch TV or use the computer in the central area of the home so you can monitor the program and online activities. Ensure that the program or game is non-violent and the language is appropriate.
- Encourage "screen-free" entertainment such as outdoor activities, books, art and music.
It's not all bad news when it comes to electronics. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics is ok with screen time for younger children (under 2 years old) if it is being used in a responsible way, like to communicate with family members via FaceTime. Remember, having your children exposed to electronics isn’t a bad thing as long as it’s in moderation.