Screens have become an everyday part of life, to the point where most of us feel that we can’t live without them. But how are screens impacting our young children? Several recent research studies have linked screen time to a sedentary lifestyle, leading to obesity, poor sleep habits, decreased social skills and difficulties learning to read. It’s important for parents and caregivers to understand the impact excessive amounts of screen time has on a child’s overall development.
Work with your family to set clear, consistent limits and rules for screen time. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids ages 2-5 should spend no more than one hour each day watching or interacting with screens. For older kids, have a family meeting and decide together how much screen time is appropriate—including your kiddos in the process can help them adapt to the expectations.
Try having your kids earn their screen time by balancing it with other activities. For example, for each hour of reading or playing outside, they earn 10 minutes of screen time. And of course, parents and caregivers should assess their own use of screens; modeling good screen habits is so important. Make an effort to find family activities that encourage spending time together—without a screen.
Deb Amundson is a Woodbury occupational therapist who focuses on pediatrics and families with her practice with St. Paul Public Schools. She co-owns Swaddle to Waddle, which promotes child development and parent coaching.