It’s Time to Revisit Screen Time!

March 5, 2017

screentime photo

By Janet Puderbaugh, MS, OTR/L

When it comes to the latest statistics on screen time and children, the numbers are truly unsettling. Researchers say that some preschoolers spend an average of four hours a day watching television or other types of digital screens, and school-age kids an unbelievable seven hours per day! According to pediatricians and psychologists, too much screen time is detrimental to young developing brains: it can diminish their ability to concentrate, develop empathy, read social cues and limit their vocabulary.

Screen Time vs. Books
Recent research published by Northern Arizona University indicated that children who played with electronic toys in in-home studies used fewer adult words and demonstrated greatly reduced verbal participation between parent and children when compared to  children who played with traditional toys or books.

The authors note that the results demonstrated that the largest and most consistent differences in verbal exchange occurred when children were exposed to electronic toys rather than books, followed by exposure to electronic toys rather than traditional toys, These findings highlight the importance that reading books to young children plays in their language development.

Screen Time & ASD
Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are uniquely more vulnerable to various brain-related impacts of screen time and are prone to developing hyperarousal and dysregulation when exposed to too much of it. According to Dr. Victoria L. Dunckley in Psychology Today, children with autism may experience more negative effects and are less able to recover from them when it comes to screen time exposure, because their brains are more sensitive and less resilient.

New Guidelines

The American Academy of Pediatrics just put out some new guidelines regarding children and screen time we’d like to share:

  • Track how much time your child spends each day with a screened device to give yourself a “wake up call.” This means TV, computer, and all mobile device time– iPads and phones included.
  • Implement a “no screen” policy during family dining time and other designated times throughout each day.
  • Keep screens out of children’s bedrooms.
  • Eliminate screen time 1-2 hours before bedtime.
  • Serve as a good example… put your device away whenever you can, especially during the agreed upon family “no screen time.”
  • Be firm with your limits and rules regarding screen time.

In the new screen-time guidelines for children, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following:

  • Toddlers younger than 18 months old should avoid screen media entirely unless they are video-chatting with relatives.
  • Parents of children aged 18 months to 24 months should watch educational shows and apps with their kids. These resources can be used as tools to help children learn.
  • Young children between 2 and 5 years of age should get no more than one hour of screen time each day.
    Parents should interact with young children while they are watching a show or using a device.
  • Children 6 and older should be monitored while using electronic devices. Parents should ensure that screen time doesn’t affect children’s sleep, or their social and physical activities.
  • Certain times of day and locations in the home should be designated as “media-free” zones. All electronic devices should be off or not used in these areas.
  • Parents should have an ongoing dialogue with their children about online citizenship and safety.

Non-Screen Activities

We’ve provided ideas in the past about ways to limit screen time with your children, and here are some additional screen-free activity ideas:

  • Reading with your child
  • Listening to music together
  • Playing imaginary games like house, school, store, tea parties and dress up
  • Building with blocks and Legos
  • Playing with dolls, stuffed animals, race cars, trains, and dinosaurs
  • Making crafts, using chalk, blowing bubbles
  • Doing puzzles and playing board games

For older children:

  • Journaling
  • Reading
  • Volunteering
  • Outdoor activities – shooting baskets, jump rope, bike riding
  • Crafts – Bracelet making, scrapbooking, painting, adult coloring books
  • Card games

Sounds like fun, right?

Here at Milestones, know we are here to support you and your efforts regarding limiting screen time for your children!

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