Finding the right time for screen time.
How much screen time should youth be averaging in a day?
- According to the American Academy of Pediatrics screen time for kids should be limited to one or two hours a day.
- The surgeon general of the United States advocates that children and teenagers should engage in at least one hour of activity each day; and by limiting ‘passive screen time’ this can be easily accomplished.
Risks associated with too much screen time:
- Decline in school grades - A 2014 study, published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, found the average amount of youth screen time per day was four hours. The study concluded that too much screen time reduced academic achievement.
- Sleep problems
- Anxiety & depression occurrences
- Weight gain & a reduction in physical activity
The Alliance for a Healthier Generation offers tips to cut youth screen time:
- Utilize out-of-school programs - Afterschool programs, community centers, 4-H, summer camps, and faith based organizations are all considered out-of-school time settings. These settings can reinforce healthy habits and active lifestyles by providing structured (electronic-free) time in which young people can incorporate physical activity in the places they are empowered to learn, play, and create.
- Create a viewing calendar - Make sure that you and your family are only watching the television shows that you want to watch and use a TV calendar scheduled to track those shows. Not surprisingly, we can end up watching hours of pointless and meaningless TV shows if we don’t limit our TV time.
- Not a punishment, not a reward - Screen time can be an enjoyable experience, but it shouldn’t be played up as more than that. By using screen time as a reward for good behavior or a punishment for bad behavior, we make it seem more important. Make screen time a “non-event” in your home.
- Create an after school action plan - Watching TV is the number one afterschool activity for most kids. Kids usually watch television when they have nothing to do, and they usually have nothing to do because they haven’t thought about what they could do. Create a top ten list of activities like bike riding, shooting hoops, walking the dog, and post this list in a place where everyone can see it.
- No TV dinners - Watching TV while eating dinner makes it easier to continue sitting and watching TV after you’ve finished with your meal. Use mealtime as a time when you take turns talking about your day or even planning what activity you will do as a family when you are done eating.
- Cut the cord in the bedroom- Children who have TVs in their room spend almost one and a half hours more each day watching them than their peers. Plus, if your kids are in their rooms watching TV, they’re removed from family time.
Not all screen time is bad. Our phones, computers and TV’s allow for many positive, educational and informative messages which help us navigate throughout our world. To learn more about healthy screen time and healthy living visit, the Michigan State University Extension webpage and check out their family section.