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Illinois Parents Compete with "Screen Time"

March 7, 2011

NORTHBROOK, Ill. - Illinois parents may be wary of too much screen time for their kids. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation study of 2,000 young people across the country, aged eight to eighteen, found they spend an average of over seven hours a day interacting with digital media. Chicago area child psychotherapist Dr. Noriko Martinez says parents and children often don't realize how much time they spend on phones and the Internet and in front of the TV.

"And when they count and actually realize how many hours they spend in front of a screen, it amounts to more time than a full-time job, for example."

Martinez says it's important for children to learn computer skills, but time in front of a screen should not replace valuable family time.

"Family dinner, for example, is very protective, particularly in adolescents, in terms of helping protect kids from engaging in risky or unhealthy behaviors."

Martinez limits screen time in her own family and she suggests that it could be a good strategy for a child who may be starting to have some problems.

"Like inability to finish homework, or distractibility, or difficulty in school, or acting-out kinds of behavior; then you can always try and see what happens if you limit screen time."

Not only for the children, but for everyone, adds Martinez.

"It's also a good idea to limit it for yourself as a parent, both in terms of modeling and in terms of seeing the kind of effect that it has on you."

Martinez says digital media play an important role in the lives of children, but not the most important role. In fact she points out that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time at all for children under three years.

The study found that over two-thirds of children 11 to 14 have cell phones and spend an average of an hour and a half of each day texting.

Critics of the study's findings point out that electronic communication and computer skills are essential for future business success.

The study is at www.kff.org

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - IL