Why too much screen time can negatively affect your kid’s health and behavior

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(Good Things Utah) – Screen time is the time that we allot on a daily basis is measured in hours in front of a screen. This can include television, phones, tablets and computers. These days adults spend a far greater amount of time wrapped up in their devices than kids do, yet pediatricians still recommend kids don’t exceed certain limits to their use.

For children under 24 months of age, screen time should be discouraged completely. For children older than two years, media limits are very appropriate. Limit screen use to no more than 2 hours or less per day of high-quality programming.

Co-view or co-play with your children, and find other activities to do together that are healthy for the body and mind (e.g., reading, teaching, talking, and playing together). Choose high-quality programming/apps and use them together with children, because this is how toddlers learn best. Letting children use media by themselves should be avoided.

All children and teens need adequate sleep (8-12 hours, depending on age), physical activity (1 hour per day), and time away from media. Designate media-free times together (e.g., family dinner) and media-free zones (e.g., bedrooms). Children should not sleep with devices in their bedrooms, including TVs, computers, and smartphones.

Time spent working on homework in class is not factored in. Screen time is discouraged because sedentary behavior and lack of physical activity have been linked to childhood obesity.

Many children spend hours per day on their phones, tablets, and computers. This prevents them from being physically active and may contribute to childhood obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol problem.

Increased screen time has been associated with higher rates of emotional reactivity and aggressiveness in young children and depression in older children. 

Increased time spent on devices may socially isolate a child from their families and friends, eroding one of their coping mechanisms and sources of support. Increased screen time may take the place of sleep and exercise, which both help to prevent mood issues. Furthermore, information online is often unfiltered. What a child reads may or may not be accurate and may require more discernment than they are developmentally ready for.

Increased levels of screen time are associated with higher rates of obesity and lower physical strength. Obesity is linked to diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol problems, and cardiovascular disease. 

For more information, visit uofuhealth.org/pediatrics.

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