How Much is Too Much Screen Time for Kids
– By Audrey Taylor –
Nowadays, many children are being more and more exposed to various technological advancements and gadgets. On the one hand, that can be rather useful and productive for their education and life experience. They are spending more time indoors, sitting in front of the computer, and generally being totally physically inactive.
Too much screen time can:
- Make it hard for your child to sleep at night
- Raise your child’s risk for attention problems, anxiety, and depression
- Raise your child’s risk of gaining too much weight
Screen time increases your child’s risk for obesity because:
- Sitting and watching a screen is time that is not spent being physically active.
- TV commercials and other screen ads can lead to unhealthy food choices. Most of the time, the foods in ads that are aimed at kids are high in sugar, salt, or fats.
- Children eat more when they are watching TV, especially if they see ads for food.
Current Recommendations for Kids Screen time from the National Institute of Health
- Children under age 2 should have no screen time.
- Limit screen time to 1 to 2 hours a day for children over age 2.
- Despite what ads may say, videos that are aimed at very young children do not improve their development.
Getting Kids Active and off Screens
In order to boost their health, stamina, and wellbeing, children in all school stages should get more active. Yes, it is easier said than done, but that is something that has to be gradually achieved and with much diligence.
The Benefits of Staying Active
No matter if your kids are seven, eleven, or sixteen years old, getting enough physical exercise is vital for numerous things. Firstly, elementary school children should have a minimum of two hours of active movements in order to prosper their bone and muscle growth.
Another benefit of being in constant motion is that there is less risk of being overweight, and they will have leaner bodies and a positive outlook towards life. When it comes to children in middle school, if they start being more active, they won’t lean to impulsive and negative behavior, which tends to happen quite often at this stage.
They should start getting more physical activities in order to also avoid obesity and promote a healthy lifestyle. What is more, they won’t be prone to getting ill, and they will have enough energy to finish a lot of chores and responsibilities.
High school children have a unique attitude, but they should do whatever sport they desire. There will be a lower chance of getting type 2 diabetes, lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels.
Fun and healthy activities
Many parents think that only by doing sport can children stay healthy and achieve a healthy weight. However, there are many other ways and healthy activities that children can do in order to maintain their health and improve cardiovascular fitness.
Elementary and middle school children can go on a hike, walk with friends more often, attend fun dance classes with peers. What is more, if they get affordable electric bikes and go out in nature with friends, they will do the necessary physical activity, and manage to come home in time and do other school duties.
It is a little bit different scenario with high schoolers. Since they are in that sensitive teenage period, doing some kind of sport is the best option. However, they can meet with friends and go bowling or play badminton. Walking to school and being in regular movement in after school hours is also essential for them.
Model and promote healthy habits with physical activity
It might be hard to get children interested to do some physical activity after school since they get quickly tired due to too many extra curriculum activities.
Here is where parents need to jump in. Parents should, above all, be very good role models and they should themselves have a positive attitude to being active. If the children see that you are enjoying a certain activity, they will observe and try to do the same thing.
Furthermore, Encourage them to be active by playing with them, going on a stroll to the park together, walking the dog, and similar. Also, encourage them to try different sports in order to discover which activity suits them best.
It is crucial that you limit the amount they spend in front of a TV or mobile phone because those gadgets are very bad distractor. Try to tell them about the importance of drinking plenty of water and eating quality foods. Consequently, explain what are the negative aspects of intaking saturated fats, salt, and sugared products. Once you show them how to lead a healthy lifestyle, they will in no time follow the right example.
Gahagan S. Overweight and obesity. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 47.
Strasburger VC, Jordan AB, Donnerstein E. Health effects of media on children and adolescents. Pediatrics. 2010;125(4):756-767. PMID: 20194281 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20194281.