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Tips to Reduce Screen Time as Summer Approaches

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends school-age children have no more than two hours of screen time a day. (JackF/Adobe Stock)
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends school-age children have no more than two hours of screen time a day. (JackF/Adobe Stock)
June 13, 2019

SEATTLE – Sunny days are upon the Northwest, but some parents may be finding it difficult to entice their children away from video screens.

Dr. Susanna Block, a pediatrician with Kaiser Permanente, notes that too much time in front of a TV, on the phone or at a computer is linked to a number of health issues, including increased obesity and lower scores on language, cognitive and social-emotional testing.

Without the structure of school during the summer, Block says excessive time in front of video screens tends to creep in. She suggests families devise a media plan to encourage mindful media use, and write it down for everyone to see.

"It's very helpful to build in screen-free times,” she stresses. “So that could be at dinner or maybe after a certain hour at night, we decide this is a screen-free time. There are no screens. Some families put their screens away in the evenings so they can just engage with each other without screens."

Block says media plans will vary depending on children's age. She suggests screens should be out of the bedroom at night so that sleep isn't disrupted and that families come up with alternatives to screen time, such as going outside or doing a project.

Lastly, Block says it's important for parents to evaluate their own time in front of screens.

As children get older, the dangers from too much screen time change. Block says about 8% of children ages 8 to 18 have Internet gaming disorder, an addiction to playing video or Internet games.

Children at these ages also are more likely to be exposed to inappropriate content and cyberbullying.

Block says rather than ignoring the online world, we should learn to live with it.

"The bottom line is digital media is here to stay, and this is where we do a lot of our learning, a lot of communicating and a lot of our research,” she states. “So, helping our kids learn how to be good digital citizens early and using their media thoughtfully will help them lifelong."

Block suggests people look at the American Academy of Pediatrics' guidelines on screen time.

The association recommends no amount of screen time for children under age two. For two-to five-year-olds, it suggests no more than an hour a day and no more than two hours for school-age children and teenagers.

Disclosure: Kaiser Health Plan of Washington Project contributes to our fund for reporting on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, Health Issues, Hunger/Food/Nutrition, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA