Did you know that, besides sleeping, most American children spend more time watching television and looking at screens than doing almost anything else ? In fact, most kids spend nearly six hours per day in front of TV and other screens (excluding homework). That’s 42 hours per week of screen time – the equivalent of a full time job!
When used wisely, high-quality and educational television and apps can help children learn. But the more time children spend playing video games, texting and watching TV, the less time they have for studying, reading and physical activity. Media use also interferes with sleep. Many studies have even shown a link between the amount of TV kids watch and their being overweight.
If you want to reduce screen time and make TV and other screens less tempting to your children, try these ten tips:
- Keep the TV, laptop, tablet, etc. in a central location like the family room.
- No TV in the child’s bedroom.
- Keep the TV off during dinner and after dinner until homework is done. Same for tablets and smart phones.
- Turn off all screens at least 30 minutes before bedtime to prevent children becoming overstimulated.
- Have a media curfew at bedtime for all devices, including phones and tablets.
- Limit the amount of screen time (TV, video games and recreational screen time) to two hours per day or less* for everyone in the family.
- Help your children select the programs they really want to watch and be firm about not letting them watching shows with inappropriate content (sex, drugs, violence).
- Watch programs with your children to monitor the content of the shows and pay attention to the advertising, too.
- Limit snacking while watching TV – kids will often eat junk food without really being hungry.
- Suggest indoor activities for your kids to do instead of being in front of a screen; always have crafts, books and magazines at the ready.
*Younger children need healthy interaction with other children and adults to learn and develop language and social skills. Learning to communicate and play is much more important than watching TV. For these reasons, the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend television for children younger than two years of age. For children two to five years, AAP recommends no more than one hour per day of screen time.