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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Screen Time for Children

By Diana Dolinsky, MD MPH


Diana Dolinsky, MD, MPH is a pediatrician with the Healthy Lifestyles Program at Duke University. The program focuses on empowering kids and families with the skills and knowledge needed to live a life of healthy eating and active lifestyles.

It’s common for young children in the United States to have a lot of exposure to media, both through direct viewing and background noise. So what are the recommendations for screen time and exposure to media for children?

Official recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics (the main organization of pediatricians) are that:

1)      Children under 2 years should not have any screen time

2)      Older children have no more than 1 to 2 hours of screen time daily

3)      Television sets should not be in children’s bedrooms.

What do we mean by screen time?

Screen time can include a number of activities. The most common are:

1)      Watching TV

2)      Playing on the computer

3)      Playing video games

4)      Text messaging (very common in teenagers)

Is there a link between screen time and weight in children?

A number of studies suggest that children with more exposure to screen time are more likely to have difficulties with increased weight. There are a number of reasons for this link. Children who are watching television are more likely to eat the foods (including fast foods and soda) that are shown on television commercials. Many children also eat while watching TV or playing video games and may eat more food than they would have consumed otherwise. Also, when children are viewing a screen, they are usually sitting and are getting less physical activity than they would otherwise.

What are some ways to help children reduce screen time?

1)       Limiting access to screens will help reduce the time. Don’t leave TVs or computers in children’s bedrooms that they can use while you think they are sleeping.

2)       Set limits on screen time for your children.

3)       Don’t introduce young children to TVs, computers, etc. If they aren’t used to watching TV, they’re less likely to want it as they get older.

4)       Talk with your child about alternatives to watching TV or playing video games (such as going outside, reading, playing games, etc.)

It is also important to remember that the earlier you change these habits, usually the easier it is!

How much screentime do your kids get? Do you try to limit it? Share your thoughts in the comments below or in our Parenting community.

Posted by: WebMD Blogs at 10:39 am

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