Summertime and Screen Time

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It’s that time of year when most kids are out of school and looking forward to summer days without the typical routine of the morning rush, school classes and nightly homework. While kids anticipate this much-needed break, it presents certain challenges for parents.

We know that kids of all ages want to be busy and will bore easily, so filling long summer days with quality activities is no easy task. After all, many kids will want to spend their free time on screen time, including video games, computer games, television viewing, and other electronic media devices. And though these are easy activities to default to since they keep our kids happily entertained, is it the best option, even if it is “just for the summer”?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, excessive screen time produces a variety of harmful effects such as attention problems, sleeping problems, and obesity[i]. So their recommendation is the same regardless of the time of year: for little ones under the age of 2, shun entertainment media completely. For school-aged kids, limit entertainment media to two hours per day. And choose quality options, avoiding anything that glorifies violence and other risky behaviors. Also, be watchful of marketing ads. The obesity from extreme screen time is not only due to less physical activity, it is also a result of the effective marketing advertisements that promote unhealthy food choices.[ii]

Obviously, if your kids are glued to their screens, it will take time and a concerted effort to build a new habit. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), in their Media and Children policy statement, makes the following suggestions (in bold below):

  1. Establish “screen-free” zones.

Action: No screens of any kind in the kids’ bedrooms, and no background media noise during dinnertime.

  1. Provide quality, non-electronic educational entertainment. 

Action: Provide books, board games, and safe access to outdoor activities.

  1. Limit total daily viewing to guidelines provided by the AAP (see above). 

Action: It is helpful to set up an actual schedule with designated times for each family member to follow. 

Of course, it is important for parents to model the behavior they want to see in their kids. Let’s also be mindful of our own “screen time” and participate with our kids in quality activities and quality viewing!

What are you doing with your kids this summer to minimize their screen time and maximize their summertime? Let us know…we would love to hear your suggestions!

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[i] http://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/Pages/Media-and-Children

[ii] http://fit.webmd.com/jr/recharge/article/parents-kids-screen-time