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12/20/18blog post

is your child addicted to screen time?

The King children are getting older - 7 and 9 years of age now. We struggle tremendously with the accessibility and usage of so much screen time. What is the balance? What is the evidence? When is it a problem? What do we do about it?

Technology is everywhere and definitely part of our everyday lives. There is a lot of good in technology. We get to stay more connected to family and friends, we have information literally at our finger tips. Our children need to learn – no, they need to master - this world of technology.

But when is a good thing too much? When does it become a problem and how do we recognize that it is a problem?

The American Academy of Pediatrics revamped their screen time guidelines in 2016 in recognition of the role electronics play in our everyday lives.

Here is a summary:

Children 0-2 years: screen time should continue to be limited or avoided. Children should be engaging in the world around them, learning language by hearing you talk and interact, or sing songs, or share books. They should be developing gross and fine motor skills by physical play. They should be learning self-regulation through your gentle guidance and reassurance. Children engage all of their senses with their everyday learning. Screens with the 2D experience do not provide interaction with all of the senses in the same manner. Starting around 15 months they begin to be able to interact with apps such as Skype or Facetime to communicate with family and friends. Screens should be limited and exposures should be co-viewing and engaging.

2-5 years: We should be limiting the time on electronics. Time on electronics takes away from time for free play. Unstructured play allows for development of problem solving skills and creative thinking, learning how to sustain attention on a particular task and learning how to handle frustrations. These developmental skills set our children up for both school success and life success.

6 and older: Once children are in school the exposures to technology increase with school expectations. Children also become less engaged in outdoor or free play. This creates even more opportunity for excessive screen time. Using the website HealthyChildren.org Family Time Family Media Plan, you can develop a plan that sets limits surrounding screens. You can discuss when and what screens are appropriate, when and where they should not be used. How do we stay safe while using? How do we practice good citizenship in the digital world? You can also figure out how much screen time your child even has available once you put in their daily schedule under the screen time calculator. This calculator auto-populates the recommended sleep and activity times based on your child’s age.

When is too much, well, too much?

Does your child have a preoccupation with a particular game, to the point that they are challenging to engage in conversation outside of that game? Do they have decreased interest in offline activities, decreased development of in-person relationships? Do they have an increased need to satisfy their craving of a particular gaming activity? Have you tried to limit their screen times and been unsuccessful? Does engaging in the activity improve their mood? Do they have withdrawal symptoms when separated from the game or activity? Have you noticed a decline in their self-help – hygiene, sleep, diet? Is your use or your child’s use of screens empowering your parenting or undermining your parenting?

Now for you parents, I have some information for you as individuals. Use YOUR screens with intention and caution.

As we adults become more engaged in our screens, we talk less with our children. They hear fewer words from us which can stifle their vocabulary development as young children. We miss opportunities to discuss life with our school and adolescent children. We tend to have less patience when we are distracted, respond slower to our children, which could lead to more conflict and child misbehavior. Screens could be causing that distraction.

What do we do about OUR, er, um… I mean our children’s screen time addiction?

  1. Know the use – there are operating systems now that track screen time. There are apps that help you limit the screen time. Plot out your days using the screen time calculator to figure out where your time is spent and if you are spending your time in ways that serve you well.
  2. Wean or cold turkey – can you take a media break? Can you set no screen time zones or locations? Can you reduce daily use by even a small amount?
  3. Increase your non-screen time activities – take a family walk, read a book, join a group.
  4. Learn how to be bored and how to handle that feeling.

Other countries have summer camps for screen overuse or technology rehabilitation centers. This is a worldwide problem we are all facing. As with all other aspects of parenting, understand the research and recommendations, put these recommendations into play with what works for your family and make sure your choices are helping you and your child to become the BEST you!!!

Check out Common Sense Media and HealthyChildren.org for more information!

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Melissa King, DO

lipid clinic
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