How much screen time is OK for my kid(s)?

Kids are spending more time with screen media -- and at younger ages -- than ever before. In an effort to help families curb kids' use, groups such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have released numerical screen limit guidelines, but the reality is that there really is no magic number that's "just right." What's more important is the quality of kids' media, how it fits into your family's lifestyle, and how you engage your kids with it.Screen Time, How much screen time is OK for my kid(s)?

The idea of screen time as a one-dimensional activity is changing -- even the AAP, whose screen time rules had been strictly age-based, is recognizing that not all screen time is created equal. Computers, tablets, and smartphones are multipurpose devices that can be used for lots of purposes. Even so, the World Health Organization is sticking with specific screen time amounts on the theory that sedentary activities such as playing computer games is contributing to the global obesity epidemic. However, designating device use simply as "screen time" can miss some important variations. The Common Sense Census: Media Use by Tweens and Teens identifies four main categories of screen time.

  • Passive consumption: watching TV, reading, and listening to music
  • Interactive consumption: playing games and browsing the Internet
  • Communication: video-chatting and using social media
  • ​Content creation: using devices to make digital art or music

Clearly, there's a lot of difference among these activities. But as valuable as many of them can be, it's still important for kids' overall healthy development to balance their lives with enriching experiences found off screens. These tips can help:

Tip 1

Are They Complaining About Sore, Tired Eyes? Because children's eyes are still developing, eye strain caused by screen time often has kids complaining. Vision Source claims headaches, neck and back pain, eye dryness and fatigue, blurry vision, and difficulty shifting focus to objects at a distance are all symptoms of eye strain. Once you connect the dots to their symptoms and their screen time, you can help make decisions about how much screen time is too much screen time - and how you can help them find balance.

Tip 2

Limit At-Home Screen Time The American Academy of Pediatrics (MP) has provided the following screen time recommendations:

      1. For children younger than 18 months, avoid using screen media other than video-chatting. Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming and watch it with their children to help them understand what they're seeing.
      2. For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen time to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.
      3. For children ages 6 and older, place consistent limits on the time spent using media and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity, and other behaviors essential to health. Studies imply that, on average, the more time children spend outside, the lower their risk of developing myopia, or nearsightedness. Screen time can be tough on developing eyes.

Tip 3

Remind Children to Take Breaks This can be tough to enforce, but making sure your kids take screen time breaks is important. Kids can be oblivious to how many hours they're actually spending in front of the TV or on your phone, so breaks are crucial to their eye health. In fact, kids are more likely to have uncorrected problems with their vision because they often assume that everyone sees the way they do. This can further contribute to eye strain, especially after prolonged exposure to digital screens.

Also, the 20/20/20 rule comes in handy not only for kids but for adults as well! The 20/20/20 rule goes like this: Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away from the screen in front of you/your child for 20 seconds. This gives eyes a much-needed break.

Tip 4

Take Children to an Eye Doctor You may not think of taking your kids to an optometrist, especially if they're not showing signs of having any eye issues, but think again. According to a study funded by the National Institutes of Health, approximately 35 percent of American preschoolers have nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness, or astigmatism. Also, the risk of myopia and progression of myopia continues through the school years. The American Optometric Association recommends an eye exam every two years if no vision correction is required.

The reality is that most families will go through periods of heavy and light media use, but, so long as there's a balance, kids should be just fine.


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At Golden Eye Optometry, we view good vision care as front line protection at every age. A routine eye exam can detect more than poor vision. It can shed early light on glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts and diabetes.

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One Comment

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