Based on research by the Kaiser Family Foundation, kids under age 6 watch TV an average of 2 hours a day (including videos or DVDs). Kids ages 8 and older devote more than an average of 6 hours a day using media for entertainment, 7 days a week, which is more than an adult’s 40-hour work week. Some kids often spend much of that multitasking with more than one device at a time, and therefore, they manage to pack in more than 10 hours a day of combined screen time.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends no more than 2 hours of educational TV for kids ages 2 and older (and no TV for kids under age 2). Following the guideline of the Nemours 5-2-1-Almost None program, designed to help families with eating, screen time, and exercise, we recommend minimizing media usage to an hour or less daily, since screen time can help contribute to childhood obesity.
5 Tips to Ensure Healthy Use of Media
- Resist the urge to use mobile devices to entertain your child on-the-go. Rather than using smart phones, tablets, and e-readers when you’re going out with your child, pack a fun bag with favorite toys, coloring books and crayons, and a few books. If you’re going out to eat with your teenager, encourage him or her to not use their mobile phone (and model the same behavior).
- Encourage and help your kids plan TV viewing in advance. Keep non-educational media use to a preplanned hour or two daily, preferably after homework and chores are done. With guidance, children can organize their time and choose television programs that fit their schedule. Keep copies of the family viewing schedule posted in a visible location (by the TV or on the refrigerator) to serve as a reminder.
- Avoid TV watching during dinner. The evening meal is often the only time that families are able to be together for any sustained period. If the TV set is on at the same time, it will interfere with conversation and connecting with each other.
- Keep the TV and computer out of the bedroom. Not only will children tend to watch more television and surf the web unsupervised, but they might detach themselves from other family activities. Having a TV or computer in the bedroom also may cut down on sleep, causing problems with fatigue at school. Keep a family computer in a common room and set a schedule for internet use with parental controls. Designate a separate log-in for schoolwork, blocking any sites that are distractions.
- Create screen-free weeks to reconnect with your family. For example, your family can participate in National Screen-Free Week, usually the first week in May. Families agree to spend seven days “unplugged” and find other ways to be entertained and spend time with each other.
Frequently Asked Questions
The amount of time a child spends looking at any kind of electronic display is referred to as screen time, and includes:
- viewing television
- watching videos and DVDs
- playing video games
- using computers, smart phones, tablets, and e-readers
The amount of screen time children experience is staggering. Children younger than age 6 watch screens for an average of 14 hours a week and children older than age 8 watch more than 40 hours a week.
Children are at risk of seeing a multitude of violent acts, poor behavior, questionable values, and countless sales messages. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the average American child will witness 200,000 violent acts on television by age 18 and view 40,000 commercials each year.
Children who get too much screen time are more likely to:
Children who consistently spend more than 4 hours per day watching TV are more likely to be overweight or obese, an issue that impacts one in five children under age 6.
Have medical problems
Based on research from the American Academy of Pediatrics, children who get too much screen time spend a greater time sitting rather than being active. A sedentary lifestyle in children can result in medical conditions from cardiovascular problems to diabetes.
Exhibit aggressive behavior
Kids who view violent acts are more likely to show aggressive behavior and fear that the world is scary and that something bad will happen to them.
Engage in risky behavior
Children who watch 5 or more hours of TV per day are more likely to begin smoking cigarettes than those who watch fewer than the recommended 2 hours a day. Over-exposure to violent and sexual images can also lead to problematic and risky behaviors, such as: a negative influence on a child’s norms and values, violence and bullying, sexual activity, and alcohol and tobacco consumption.
Exposure to messages
Television promoting unhealthy foods can result in increased consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and calorie-dense foods. (Source: Barr-Anderson, 2009)
Develop attention deficit disorder/attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD), screen addiction, and sleep disorders.
With moderation, there are some benefits of screen time
- educational value and school-related homework and research
- playing video games can improve motor skills and coordination
- internet tools, texting, and shared video games are easy and fun ways to socialize and communicate
Resources on Media, Television and Children
- LimiTV: learn about the hazards of excessive TV watching and get ideas for alternative activities.
- Media Awareness Network: find out how to help increase your child’s media literacy.
- MediaWise: includes reviews and ratings on almost every video game and movie on the market.
- Over the Rainbow: an online magazine dedicated to media literacy for the whole family.
- Parents Television Council: educates on issues such as sex, violence, and profanity.
- Parents’ Choice: provides reliable, unbiased information about children’s media and toys.
Handouts & Resources
If you're looking for more tools and resources to help you encourage healthy habits at home with your kids, check out our handouts and resources section just for families.
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