Our Kids and Media Use

We know that the hours kids spend in front of screens – phones, TVs, video games, computers – can contribute to pediatric obesity, poor sleep, and mental health issues. However, screens can also provide education, social interaction, and entertainment and can be beneficial in appropriate settings and dosing.

Our Kids and Media Use – Turn Off the Screen, Start Talking!

By: Kate Gathof, M.D.

April 19, 2018

We know that the hours kids spend in front of screens – phones, TVs, video games, computers – can contribute to pediatric obesity, poor sleep, and mental health issues. However, screens can also provide education, social interaction, and entertainment and can be beneficial in appropriate settings and dosing.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has released recommendations for media usage by children. Some highlights include:

  • Children younger than age 2 should not have any screen time, with the exception of interactive video chats and rare educational apps. Instead, focus on reading, interactive activities, and hands on learning. Starting at age 3-5 years, high quality educational TV programs (i.e. Sesame Street) can be used in moderation. Excessive passive screen time in young children can delay speech and development, and can have a detrimental effect on parent-child relationships.

  • The AAP recommends no more than 2 hours of screen time for any child of any age.

  • Get electronics out of the bedroom – having a TV in a child’s bedroom is associated with obesity and the blue wavelengths from screens can disrupt sleep.

  • Have candid conversations with your child and teen about concerning social media, internet, and computer content (i.e. cyberbullying, inappropriate sexual content, drug/alcohol promotion, violent content etc) and monitor your child’s usage to ensure it is appropriate and does not put your child’s privacy or safety at risk.

  • Parents’ screen habits influence their children – parents and caretakers who are on their phones or watching TV (or even having it on in the background) around their kids are more likely to be distracted and have less verbal and nonverbal communication with their children. Show your kids that you try to limit your screen time as well, and that you prioritize your time with your family – turn off the electronics!

For more information, check out the AAP’s Policies on  "Media and Young Minds”, "Media Use in School Aged Children and Adolescents", as well as AAP’s “Media and Children Communication Toolkit for Families". Talk with your pediatrician if you have questions or concerns about your child’s media use.

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Kathryn Gathof, M.D.

Dr. Kate is originally from Virginia. She attended the University of Notre Dame, where she studied anthropology, before returning to Virginia for medical school. Residency brought her and her husband to Columbus in 2012; Kate completed a combined residency in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at OSU/Nationwide Childrens Hospital.

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