For Health Professionals

Screen Time Helpful Tips & Resources

Understanding the Effects on Children's Health

Health care providers can help families understand that TV watching and screen time habits can have significant effects on their children’s development, health, and social skills.

Too much screen time and television can lead to negative effects, including:
  • A greater amount of time spent sedentary rather than being active. A sedentary lifestyle in children can result in various medical conditions, such as: unhealthy weight, cardiovascular problems, and diabetes. (Source: AAP, Pediatrics, 2001.107)
  • Children watching TV get exposed to messages promoting unhealthy foods which may result in increased consumption of sweetened beverages and calorie-dense foods. (Source: Barr-Anderson, 2009)
  • Various injuries (hand, wrist, forearm, and elbow) have been associated with extended computer and video game use (more than 20 hours per week). (Source: Child Trends 2009-29)
  • Overexposure and/or unsupervised use of the internet or television can lead to social and emotional problems and risky behaviors in children, such as: ADD/ADHD, bullying and violent behavior, and sleep disorders. (Source: AAP, Pediatrics, 2001)

Frequently Asked Questions

What is screen time?

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
How many hours are kids watching screens?

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.

What are they exposed to?

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.

What are the risks of too much screen time?
Children who get too much screen time are more likely to:
  • become obese — 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. 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 on 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
What are the positive effects of moderate multi-media use?
With moderation, there are some benefits of screen time
to children:
  • 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