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How to Help Kids in a Digital World

Research finds teens are using digital devices with screens for about nine hours a day. (Greg Stotelmyer)
Research finds teens are using digital devices with screens for about nine hours a day. (Greg Stotelmyer)
December 15, 2015

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Many Kentucky children will find digital gifts under the tree this holiday season, leaving some parents with concerns and questions about screen time.

A recent report from Common Sense Media found teens are using a tablet, gaming system or other device with a screen for about nine hours a day. And for those 8 to 12 years old, it's six hours.

Glenn Augustine, interim CEO of Indiana Youth Institute, is an advocate for healthy youth development. He says while technology creates opportunities for learning and communicating, it's important to ensure children aren't plugging in and tuning out.

"A child online creating digital art probably is pretty good being there for an hour or two, rather than a child just playing video games or engaging in social media,” he says. “So you really have to look at your child, you have to look at what they're doing when they're online."

The study found teens spend more time listening to music on digital devices than tweens, who more often watch TV. And both age groups watch TV, text, use social media and listen to music while doing homework, which experts say can interfere with a child's ability to study and learn.

To maintain a healthy family dynamic, Augustine recommends setting aside time to connect as a family without digital devices, limiting screen time and turning off devices 30 minutes before bed time.

He adds there are indications when a child is spending too much time with technology.

"First thing your child wants to do when they get up in the morning is get to that game or to that app and anytime they have free time wanting to do the same thing,” he says. “So just engaging with the same thing over and over again, could be irritability or aggressive behavior and also just forsaking other activities for that one activity."

Technology is not just limited to the teen set. Common Sense Media reports that more than one-in-three children under age two are using tablets or smart phones.

Augustine notes that these young children learn best from face-to-face social interactions such as simply sitting with a parent reading a book.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY