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4/2/15 blog post

what "counts" as screen time?

By: Stacy Meyer, MD

Recently, daddy (who is a high school teacher) and I had an interesting discussion regarding screen time for children. I was commenting on the fact that our children are now engaging in more screen time in their preschool rooms and that we needed to keep this in mind in regards to the amount of time they are getting at home. As many of you know the AAP has a recommendation for 2 hours or less of screen time daily and no screen time for children less than 2 years of age. This brought on the discussion of what should “count” for screen time.

As a high school math and engineering teacher, he is always looking for ways for his classroom to be more innovative and utilize technology. This results in more and more lessons that are centered around a screen, be it a computer or a tablet. Should this time be “counted” for high school students? What about time that they are spending zoned into their phones on twitter or snapchat…does this “count”? What about gaming does this “count”? What about time spent on homework or researching on the internet should this “count”?

To answer this “what counts” question, it is helpful to understand why this recommendation was made. The AAP states that these recommendations are based on studies showing that excessive media use can lead to attention problems, school problems, sleep disorders and obesity. In addition, studies have shown that children learn better from interactive personal relationships than from media related sources. Despite these known pitfalls of excessive media use, surveys done in 2009 by the Kaiser Family foundation showed that children aged 8-18 years are getting over 7.5 hours of screen time daily!

With the basis of these recommendations in mind, I believe we need to think of screen time as the time that is non-interactive (no face to face interaction with an adult) and time that encroaches on our active family time. This would not include your child’s technology class utilizing computers and instructional videos that involve teacher interaction but would include my preschooler’s 30 minute “book on the computer” at school which plays like a television show.

How can we reduce our children’s screen time? One way to help is to follow the AAP recommendation that areas of the home be kept “screen free”. These areas would include bedrooms where late evening screen time can disrupt normal sleep patterns and watching/playing is less monitored by adults. We can all as parents be more aware of the cumulative time our children are in front of screens and offer alternative sources of entertainment.

By: Dr. Stacy Meyer – “Dr. Mom Squad”. Dr. Meyer is a pediatric endocrinologist at Dayton Children’s Hospital. She is the mother of two boys who she lovingly refers to as “Busy Bee” and “Sprout!” As part of the “Dr. Mom Squad,” Dr. Meyer blogs about her experiences as both as doctor and a mom and hopes to share insight to other parents on issues related to both parenting and kids health. Learn more about Dr. Meyer!