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Shut off the TV!

Posted on March 15, 2017 at 7:45 AM

Screen time

- The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends less than 2 hours per day of screen time

- For children under age 2, the recommendation recently changed from no screen time to up to 1 hour of supervised / educational screen time - the parent should be interacting with their child while the screen is on, rather than using the screen as a babysitter.

Reasons to limit screen time

- Children younger than 18 months are unable to realize that symbols on a screen relate to objects in real life. While children under 18mos can learn to unlock a device, swipe through pictures, and so on, it does NOT translate to real-life skills.

- Watching TV before 18 months of age is associated with slower language development, poorer reading skills, worse short-term memory, decreased attention span, and increased frustration / impatience.

- Having > 2 hours of screen time is associated with obesity, depression, and aggression in preschool and school-age children.

- Children who watch violent programs are more likely to be aggressive and/or anxious.

- TV shows and video games often reinforce inappropriate behaviors, poor communication techniques, and gender and racial stereotypes.

- Children under age 8 don’t realize that advertisements are for selling products, and children under age 6 can’t tell the difference between an ad and a TV show. They may become angry or frustrated when a parent refuses to purchase something they saw in an ad.

Tips for sharing screen time with a child

- Watch an educational / interactive show together, and frequently ask the child questions about what is going on in the show. After the show, ask what they learned.

- Play a game on a screen together. Pause often and interact in real life.

- Read a story on a screen to your child.

- Video chat with a relative or friend who lives far away.

- Mute the TV / computer when an ad is playing, and use that time to talk with the child and distract them from the screen.

- When the child does see ads, explain to the child that the purpose is to make you want things you don’t necessarily need, and they try to trick us into thinking that buying the product will make us happier. Parents can ask questions like “do you really think it’s as good as they make it seem?” or “do you think that’s a healthy choice?” to get their child thinking critically about ads.

- Pay attention to the rating of the show or movie. PG movies are meant to be screened by parents first to determine whether they are appropriate for their child, as they may contain subject matter that is scary for young children. PG-13 is for children 13 and over, and that rating is determined by a qualified council of professionals; do not dismiss it. R rated movies are for children/adults 17 and over. Parents should be careful not to allow children to be in the room (or to wander in unseen) when they are watching PG-13 or R-rated movies.

Tips to limit screen time

- Do not leave a TV running in the background - it offers a hidden source of stimulation that can stress children

- No TV in the bedroom - it is harder to control how much screen time they have, plus they are more likely to have screen time close to bedtime

- No screens within 2 hours of bedtime - it interferes with delta wave activity in the brain and decreases the quality of sleep

- Have a rule such as no screen time on school days, screen time only during certain hours of the day, etc.

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