SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Dr. Barbara Bumberry of Mercy Hospital joined Ozarks First in the studio to talk about the potential detriments of too much screen time for children.
In 2007, the first iPhone became available, as did Netflix’s streaming service. In 2010, the first iPad came out. Some of the biggest users of these screens and services are children.
Children — especially older ones — get exposed to a lot of content through screens, such as games, social media, and videos or movies. With the known association between screen time and health issues such as depression and obesity, it’s important that parents keep an eye on how much screen time their kids are getting.
Some studies also show an association between reduced cognitive abilities, decreased quality of life and unhealthy diets with increased screen time.
Bumberry said some of the reasons kids are getting so much screen time are that some households might not be able to afford other forms of entertainment, parents might be exhausted, the family might live in an unsafe neighborhood, or parents have other things they have to get done around the house. It’s easy to hand a child a screen to keep them entertained while parents go about their day.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under the age of 2 don’t get any screen time at all.
“Young children under the age of 2 really don’t benefit from any screen time unless it’s a video chat, such as with a parent or grandparent,” Bumberry said. “They learn better with direct face-to-face interaction with others.”
Bumberry said that unfortunately, the average child under 2 gets about three hours of screen time a day.
The AAP recommends that children between 2 and 5 get only up to an hour of screen time per day. It’s better if children this young watch shows with their parents, as this can improve how much they learn during their screen time.
A study from 2014 showed that children in this age range get around 2.5 hours of screen time a day.
Older children can learn meaningful information from screens. Parents can negotiate limits and boundaries around screen use to improve other aspects of the child’s life with education, chores, and physical activity.
On average, pre-teens and teenagers use screens for entertainment for around 5 to 7 ½ hours per day. This much screen time can cause poorer cognitive ability, lack of sleep, and increased impulsivity.
The best way to ensure healthy mental health in this age group is to get at least an hour of physical activity on most days, get 8-10 hours of sleep a night, and limit screen time to no more than 2 hours a day.