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How Much Screen Time is Healthy For My Child?


Let's admit it: TV, movies, the internet and video games are a lot of fun. This is true for adults, but especially for kids. There are animated movies geared toward kids now more than ever. Video games have become so popular with children, it's become its own art form. And, the internet allows kids to view their favorite videos, shows and movies with just a few swipes on a tablet or smartphone. It's truly a great time to be a kid when it comes to entertainment. But just like ice cream and hanging out in the sun, too much of a good thing can come back to bite you.

Why too much screen time is bad for kids

According to the National Institutes of Health, the majority of American children spend three hours watching TV per day. When you account other forms of screen time, such as surfing the internet and playing video games, total screen time can reach five to seven hours per day.

two young preschoolers looking ata tablet screenKids love apps and video games, but too much screen time can lead to physical and behavioral issues.

While TV, video games and the internet can be beneficial and even educational in some cases, too much screen time has several negative health effects. For one, screen time means your child is being sedentary. Kids are a lot less physically active these days, which has led to an increase in childhood obesity nationwide. Excessive screen time is only contributing to this problem.

Additionally, screen time can make it a lot more difficult for your child to fall asleep at night. Sleep is crucial for childhood development, and a lack of shut-eye can negatively affect your child's performance at school. The Mayo Clinic also suggested that screen time can create a loss of social skills, which are crucial during the preschool age - not connecting with other children can lead to behavioral problems down the road.

How to decrease screen time

The NIH recommends no more than two hours of screen time per day. If your children have been accustomed to a lot of screen time, it can be difficult to break bad habits, but it's not impossible. The first thing to do is the hardest: You must lead by example and limit your screen time as well. The quality of your child's screen time is also important. If you do narrow down your screen time to two hours per day, make sure that the content you allow your kids to consume is productive as well as entertaining.

Here are some other suggestions:

  • Make sure that no screens are allowed at mealtime.
  • Do not use the TV as background noise.
  • Keep TVs, smartphones and tablets out of your preschooler's room, or enforce a rule that devices must be charged outside of his or her bedroom at night.
  • Aim for apps that have a time limit so children don't use them to excess.
  • Make free-play time a priority over screen time: Make it a rule that your preschooler can't have access to her favorite app unless she plays outside first. 

It's understandable why your preschooler wants more screen time - after all, TV and tech is a lot of fun. However, like any other toy or game, you need to set boundaries with screen time to make sure they have a healthy, well-rounded experience. 

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