CHS Blog

Why You Should Limit Screen Time This Summer

Why You Should Limit Screen Time This Summer
Posted on July 7, 2017 by CHS

Children look forward to their summer break. There is no school, no studying, and plenty of time to do what they want. For many children, that means plenty of time for watching television or playing computer games.

Using screens has become a way of life, and children are surrounded by them daily. There are smart phones, tablets, computers, televisions, and media players. Children use screens at home, at school, and even in the car. They use them to read, watch movies, draw, listen to music, take pictures or video, and communicate with friends and family.

Technology is a wonderful tool for doing research or communicating with distant relatives or friends, but it is important to balance screen time with other activities. Organizations such as Common Sense Media, Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, and the Fred Rogers Center provide research information and resources to increase awareness about the responsible use of screens.

The Effects of Excessive Media Use from the American Academy of Pediatrics

  • 75% of teenagers own a smart phone, and 25% report feeling “constantly connected” to the internet.
  • Children between the ages of 4 and 9 who watch more than 1 ½ hours of television a day are at greater risk for obesity.
  • Children or teens that spend excessive amounts of time with a screen, or sleep with electronic devices turned on in their bedrooms are at greater risk for sleep problems. The blue light from electronic devices stimulates the brain and disrupts natural sleep patterns. To read more about the research on blue light click here.
  • Overuse of the internet, particularly for gaming, has an addictive quality that makes it difficult for children to disconnect from the screen and reconnect with the real world. Doctors refer to this as Internet Gaming Disorder, and it is still in the process of being researched.
  • Exposure to social media can effect children’s self-image and introduce them to risky behaviors such as taking drugs or drinking.
  • Social media usage also makes children more vulnerable to sexual predators. About 12% of 10 to 19 year olds have reported sending inappropriate pictures of themselves to others. They often do not understand that these images can never be deleted or removed.
  • Cyberbullying can be done through the use of social media or texting. Children may become the victim, or the bully. Either way, cyberbullying can have a profound impact on your child’s self-esteem. Encourage children who use social media or play online games to practice good digital citizenship.
  • Excessive screen time can cause Digital Eye Strain, and Myopia (nearsightedness).

Using Screens Responsibly

Set clear boundaries for screen use in the home. This includes adults! Establishing clear boundaries to how and when screens are used will help your whole family stay healthy. The AAP has developed an interactive tool to help you create a media plan for your family. Click here to use the tool in English or Spanish. Here are some more tips:

  • Establish “Screen Free Zones” where media cannot be used. For example, no media usage at the table during meals, or in bed. To find tips on how to plan a device-free dinner click here.
  • Know what your family is watching or playing. On the Common Sense Media website you can view information and ratings of educational content on television shows, movies, games, apps, and websites.
  • Learn how to use parental controls.
  • Read about online privacy and why it is important. Learn more about how to keep your privacy safe online here.
  • Hold the Wi-Fi hostage. Each night after your child is in bed, re-set the Wi-Fi password. Prepare a list of chores or activities you want your child to do before you will release the new password.

Play without Plugs

Take a complete break from screens by enjoying outdoor activities, playing board games, building with blocks, dancing to music, or enjoying art projects. You can also find resources for screen-free play and activities by visiting the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood website. Visit your public library to find books about screen time that you can read with your child. While you are visiting the library, check out the book Unplugged Play: No Batteries, No Plugs, Pure Fun by Bobbi Conner. Set limits on screen time, get out, and have fun!

References and Resources

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