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Children and media use

March 9, 2017
Cheryl Kaczor , MOV Parent

Today's children are growing up in an age of constant screen time, from television, computers and gaming systems to notebooks or phones. But just how much screen time is too much? There has been a lot of research on the topic over the past several years. Doctors and researchers have studied children's brains, behaviors and learning abilities and have come to some conclusions on what might be best. Of course it is always up to the parent to determine what is best for their own children, but below are some facts from the research.

How much screen time should my child have?

The recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics are:

Why limit screen time for children when there are so many great programs?

During the early years, especially up until the age of two, children's brains are developing quickly. It is during this time that children are learning all about the world around them. They are learning to make connections with things and people. When children sit and stare at a TV or computer, crucial brain development is affected. Babies need to experience the real world by being read to, playing and manipulating objects. They also need to learn to connect with people so that they can develop socially and emotionally.

What about educational TV or videos for infants?

Research conducted by the American Academy of Pediatricians has shown that when children sit in front of a screen, their brains get rewired and this could lead to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD.) The fast pace of TV and videos becomes normal to a baby's brain. This overstimulation can lead to ADHD when the children enter elementary school. So turn off the TV for your baby. Let them learn by exploring for themselves. As children grow and develop quality television and computer programs can be introduced.

However, be careful that children do not only sit in front of a screen. They need to be playing, doing their homework, reading and interacting with friends and family members. Television and computers can be great sources of learning and entertainment, but use them in moderation.

Obesity

Too much screen time often leads to childhood obesity. Children need at least 1 hour of active time each day. The habit of coming home from school/daycare to watch TV or play video games often doesn't allow children to get the recommended amounts of physical activity. In addition, children who sit in front of a screen often snack. This leads to even greater caloric intake, usually of unhealthy foods, without the benefit of burning it off. Most video games that children play are sedentary. If your children do play video games, choose games in which they can get up and move their bodies to exercise more than their fingers.

Violence and Aggression

Often times children are viewing programs or playing games that are violent. Research tells us that when children view violent acts they often "act out" and become more aggressive themselves. They also can become more desensitized to violence and believe that it is normal behavior. Young children who view acts of violence often become frightened because they are not yet able to tell the difference between reality and fantasy. So when you are choosing TV shows to watch or games to play, check the rating system. Sit down and watch TV with them and talk about what they are viewing. Turn the TV off if it becomes unsuitable for your child.

How to Decrease Screen Time

Here are a few ideas for cutting down on media use.

Resources:

kidshealth.org/parent/positive/family/tv-affects-child.html

www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/Pages/Media-and-Children.aspx

Cheryl Kaczor, M.S., is a WVU Extension Service Families and Health Agent for Marshall County. Contact her at Cheryl.Kaczor@mail.wvu.edu

 
 

 

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