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How Much Screen Time Is Safe for Your Kids?

By Sandy Schroeder

We all live with screens, and sometimes spend too much time on phones, computers and TVs, but what about our kids?

That’s really a loaded question with two parts. First, how much time do the screens subtract from the face-to-face attention we give to our kids, and second, how much screen time should they be getting?

Here are the recommended screen times by age group, according to Rodale.com.

Children under 18 months – According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), kids under 18 months should not be exposed to screens at all. Researchers say screen exposure in tablets, TVs or video games, may have a significantly negative impact on an infant’s brain. The screen time is over-stimulation that can interfere with a child’s normal development. When they go from screens to other situations they are often under-stimulated and bored.

Researchers suggest teaching very young children to amuse themselves without technology.  Create a safe play area in your home and fill it with art supplies, three-dimensional puzzles, musical instruments, play dough, hats, costumes, and blocks to absorb their attention and tease their imagination.

Children 18 months to 5 years – At this age, AAP says screen time should be held to an hour per day and parents should watch with their kids, selecting quality programs. Screen time is limited because screen exposure can still impact brain development; 85 percent of the brain develops before age 3 and continues to age 5. Too much screen time in this period has been linked to ADHD, hyperactivity, and behavior problems. At this age, encourage a lot of independent play inside and outside, including time with other kids.

Children 6 to 12 – An hour per day is still recommended, with parents keeping an eye on content to avoid overly scary material or inappropriate material. If it works, a family room could be a viewing area, providing lots of other toys, games, art supplies, books and puzzles. 

Age 13 and older – At this level, technology usually becomes a social tool and a school tool, along with video games and TV shows. Monitoring and limiting use is important. Some families set up zones, ruling out electronics at the dinner hour, or establishing a quiet zone later in the evening.

Every family and household has its own unique qualities. Understanding yours, and what works best, can make all of the difference with screens. Watching a cooking or science show with your child could lead to more research at the library, a special class, or new school projects.  As you monitor and evaluate their screen time, you might run a quick check on yours. Do the homework to make technology work for you and your family.

To learn more about your health and wellness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Downers Grove, Ill.

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