Screen Time for Kids..What is Healthy?

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Screen Time and Kids?

I was a kid in the 1980s.  Technology was fascinating but there were limited devices and most of those were too expensive for my parents to buy.  I had an owl looking device called the Little Professor, Speak and Spell, tape players for music, and eventually a Commodore 64 that was my first computer.  Screen time in those years was something my parents gave no thought to because most of my day was spent outside.

Today, as a father of four, I have my 5 yr. old requesting a tablet for Christmas.  My other three children are all “connected” with my 10 yr. old boy having the least access out of them all.  Raising kids with 24-hour access to stimulation is just different.  As parents we sometimes like having time to ourselves but if that time is at the sacrifice of our children with screens, we may be setting ourselves up for more problems in the future.  The first time I noticed a problem was with my oldest son.  He loved playing a car game on the Xbox but what I noticed early on was if he spent too much time playing, he would develop a “Tic”.  Tics are a repetitive and involuntary movement or sound that your child may make.  My son would rub the bottom of his mouth, reposition and sometimes make a wide eye-opening type of movement.  I initially asked what he was doing, and he responded that it just made him feel better.  These are motor tics.  More common in boys. When access was moderately limited, the strange movements would disappear.  I have also noticed this tendency in my younger son of 10.  In my opinion this level of stimulation from screens/tv/games/videos always has a negative impact.

There are a basic set of guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and CDC for screen time.  AAP recommends no screen time for children 24 months and under except for video chat.  For kids aged 2-5, the recommendation is an hour or less of screen time per day.  Additional hours of screen time outside of the guidelines have been linked to poorer performance on behavior, social and cognitive development.  The CDC recommends for the 6-18yr old age bracket less than 2 hours a day outside of homework.

It is for this reason and personal experience that we set boundaries and limits to screen time for all our children.  When this is followed, I notice my kids play more together, and they are more tolerable and less quick to anger.  They may be mad at first with limitations, but they will find things to do.  It is our responsibility as parents to realize the consequences of unlimited access to electronics and create boundaries.  Finally, we must supply them with a variety of activities to help them succeed in the transition away from screens.

–Aaron Workman, DC

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