The lowdown on screen time

How much time should your kids spend in front of a screen? That’s a loaded question, right?

With so many people and organizations offering their thoughts on the subject, it can be difficult to determine how much is the right amount.

But it is important to limit the time your kids spend in front of a screen — and for that matter, your own. A recent study released by the World Health Organization found that there’s been a steep and steady increase in screen time among kids over the last decade.

Instead of spending time being active or outdoors, kids now spend more than 60 percent of their waking hours sitting. This leads to an increased risk of obesity, along with diabetes, sleep issues and asthma, among other conditions.

So how can you know what limits to place on your little ones’ screen time? Let’s take a look at the guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Making sense of the screen time guidelines

Last October, the AAP released revised screen time guidelines, acknowledging for the first time that some shows and phone/tablet apps have educational and developmental value. The amount of screen time they recommend for your kids depends on their ages.

For kids younger than 18 months, electronics should largely be avoided entirely. The only exception to this rule is video-chatting.

It’s particularly important to limit use among infants and toddlers. Research presented recently at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting found that use of tablets and other handheld screens in children younger than age 2 can slow speech development.

For kids ages 18 to 24 months, it’s appropriate for parents to introduce some level of high-quality, educational programming. Because kids are constantly learning and developing, it’s important that parents watch these programs or use these apps with their children so that they can help their kids understand what they’re seeing.

For kids ages 2 to 5, parents should limit screen time to no more than one hour per day. Programs or apps should be high-quality and educational, and parents should still interact with media alongside their kids.

For kids age 6 and older, parents should establish a consistent limit on screen time — and make sure that kids’ use of screens doesn’t negatively impact their schoolwork, social life or sleep.

No matter how old your kids are, it’s important that your family spends quality time together that’s media-free. Be a role model for your kids by not using your phone while driving, and designate times that are free from technology, like dinnertime. This can help your family connect and strengthen your relationships.

When your kid’s screen is the computer…

Kids today increasingly spend time online, whether on a computer or a smartphone. Before you allow your child to adventure onto the web, teach him or her about online safety.

Need additional guidance about screen time or another aspect of your child’s life or health? A pediatrician can offer insight. Find one here.