Screen Time: How Much is Too Much?

“I’m Bored” = Screen Time? 

Summer vacation is now well upon us and screen time may be running rampant. Most parents have probably already heard those two dreaded words from their child: I’m bored. If you’re anything like me, you may be tempted to hit the “easy button” on this complaint by letting your child veg out in front of the television or tablet.

There are plenty of opinions out there about screen time and how it affects our kids. Some of this information is based on scientific study. And some is just noise from the soapbox of your most judgemental mom friend on Facebook.

Create, Connect, and Learn

The American Academy of Pediatrics has revised their policy on screen time as recently as October of last year (2016). In their revised guidelines, the flagship association of over 66,000 pediatricians has shifted the emphasis from time limits to what they call “media mentoring”. In essence, media consumption should be part of an intentional family plan that balances the offerings of media to help kids “create, connect, and learn” in productive ways. The AAP cautions parents not to allow media use to displace kids’ opportunities for physical activity and face-to-face interaction. For kids under the age of 5, a one hour limit per day is recommended.

Developing Interests

Even television, which seems to offer little more than entertainment value, can be channeled in productive ways when it is being used with intentionality. What is your child interested in? Chances are an engaging and informative documentary on the topic can be found in your local library’s DVD section or maybe even on Netflix or YouTube. The reverse is also true– tuning into the types of shows your child is interested in could inspire opportunities to develop those interests in ways that go beyond the screen.

Though television and other media certainly has the potential to be over-used, leading to negative consequences, the reverse is also true. Media can be a useful tool for kids to develop their interests and abilities. The key is for parents to stay involved.

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