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Limit screen time to maintain your child's balance and wellness

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Teen boy playing video games.

In this article, you’ll find answers to questions like:

1. What are the risks of plugging in?
2. How can I encourage a balance?
3. How much time is too much?

Your 2-year-old gets fussy in a restaurant, so you hand over the tablet in exchange for peace. Is there any harm in that?

Well, it depends.

Limiting screen time to less than an hour for a 2-year-old is optimal, according to the World Health Organization. And no access is recommended for younger than 2. The many reasons for reining in exposure to electronics are varied, as you’ll see below.

1. WHAT ARE THE RISKS?

World Health recommends replacing sedentary activities, such as watching videos and playing computer games, with physical fun like playing outside because it improves children’s physical and mental well-being. In short, turning off devices creates healthy habits.

“Screen time is an interesting topic when it comes to our children’s wellness because their development should be nourished by diverse experiences that involve all of their senses,” says Claudia Herrera, interim chief executive officer at Center for Family Services of Palm Beach County.

“The quality of the information our children are accessing is also relevant," she says. "Some parents are limited in their knowledge about technology and how it poses a risk for their children who, sometimes by accident or lack of knowledge, access online information that is not appropriate for their age or has toxic or negative content. In other cases, parents are busy and see the TV, internet, cellphone and video games as tools to distract their children.”

Often viewed as a harmless, time spent on devices can be abused and can lead to obesity, sleep problems, internet gaming disorder, poor academic performance, cyberbullying and exposure to online predators.

2. HOW CAN I ENCOURAGE A BALANCE?

Fortunately, you can take several steps to create balance. The first one is to set a great example by limiting your own screen time.

You also can set boundaries for online time, plan more play and designate electronics-free zones, such as the bedroom.

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood offers resources, such as 100 awesome ideas for reading-related fun, that families can try during the annual Screen-Free Week in the first full week of May. Test your imagination by turning off your home Wi-Fi and playing a board game or make dinner together — anytime.

3. HOW MUCH TIME IS TOO MUCH?

Researchers have been trying to answer the question, “How much is too much?” but World Heath offers guidelines. For example, it recommends at least three hours of physical activity, no more than an hour of screen time, and 10 to 13 hours of quality sleep each day for 3- and 4-year-olds.

Researchers do agree, though, that less screen time translates into a more balanced lifestyle as your child grows up.

“In therapy, we (clinicians) treat many children and teenagers dealing with issues related to impulsivity, poor social skills, poor communication skills/speech delays, isolation with self-esteem problems, victims of bullying, displaying violent or aggressive behaviors toward classmates and/or family members, and feeling depressed, sad, anxious or angry,” Herrera says. “Some of those behaviors are related to the exposure to inappropriate TV programs, games, online videos and websites with negative content, as well as lack of parental involvement and supervision.”

SOURCES:

• Claudia Herrera, interim chief executive officer, Center for Family Services of Palm Beach County
Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood 
• “To grow up healthy, children need to sit less and play more,” World Health Organization, April 24, 2019 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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