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Screen Time: How Much is Too Much?

Screen Time: How Much is Too Much?

As a parent, it is important to limit the amount of exposure children have to digital devices including television, computers, tablets and smartphones. In the modern day, this can seem like an extremely daunting task with the amount of availability children have to media, both at home and outside of the home.

Effects of Too Much Screen Time

When considering the consequences of screen time over-exposure, it is important to understand the negative impact excessive media intake can have on the eyes and even on the developing brain. Excessive strain with taking in pixels, especially at close range, has the potential to cause damage that is likely to cause vision problems later on in life.

Concentrating on the image displayed on screens for too long may cause eye fatigue, often associated with headaches at the back of the head (the part of the brain that is responsible for vision). This fatigue may cause difficulty concentrating and may carry over to other important areas such as homework if the child has been watching television for too long prior to starting their work.

Focusing on a fixed image for too long at too close of a distance also has the ability to cause nearsightedness if it occurs in excess. In recent years, the rates of this condition have gone up and it is widely believed that this is the result of excessive media intake. Eyes are often irritated from watching excessively at this distance because too often children will forget to blink regularly as they are fixated on what is in front of them. This can cause a sensation of dry eyes.

Recommendations about Screen Time for Children

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends zero screen time for children under 18 months of age, aside from video chatting for the purpose of development and building connections/familiarity.

Between 18-24 months, screen time should consist of either video chatting or high-quality programming that may assist with early development. This should include education material with adequate dialogue as opposed to programming that is merely easy and entertaining.

For children 2-5, programming should be limited to one hour per day of high-quality material. It is advised that parents view with their children to help connect content to the world around them.

For children 6 and up, it is advised that screen time be kept to no more than a couple hours a day, across all avenues from television to computer. It is important to understand that time on the screen should not take the place of important health functions such as sleep and exercise. Because of this, it is pertinent that parents place strict rules on screen time in and around the house.

Tips for Managing Screen Time

It is important to also understand how much screen time is occurring at school so as not to exceed recommendations. As children get older, there may be greater demands to use a computer for schoolwork so it is important to modify usage to ensure health is not being neglected.

The line of vision should be a near direct angle with the brightness at a level that is not overly powerful or causing strain on the eyes to see what is on the screen. A break should be taken every 20 minutes when possible, allowing the eyes to re-focus on objects a bit farther away and not promoting nearsightedness.  

Having rules in place at home may be challenging early on. In order to help enforce these rules, removing screens from bedrooms and setting media curfews can be helpful. Additionally, filling free time with fun and productive activities may assist with reducing time spent with media.

Additional Resources

At Kernodle Pediatrics, we encourage you to be intentional about your family’s digital device and media usage in a way that it enhances your daily life. Start by calculating your current media time with this helpful calculator, then create a family media plan. If your children are old enough, include them in the planning so they feel as though they have some input.

If you have additional questions or concerns about how to best manage your child’s screen time, don’t hesitate to consult with his or her pediatrician. Kernodle Pediatrics has two convenient locations in Mebane and Elon, North Carolina. To schedule an appointment, call (336) 538-2416 (Elon) or (919) 563-2500 (Mebane).

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