With school out and the hot, muggy weather, you may be tempted to relax your family’s screen time rules. Here’s why pediatric nurse practitioner Jasmine M. Terrell doesn’t recommend it.
Ah, summertime. The season of pushed-back bedtimes and ice pops before breakfast. But there’s one rule Jasmine M. Terrell, a pediatric nurse practitioner at Vanderbilt Integrated Pediatrics Tullahoma, urges parents not to relax this time of year: screen time for kids.
“Yes, kids want more freedom during the summer months, but parents should really try to continue to enforce screen time limits,” Terrell said. “If anything, this might be a good time of year to dial back the amount of screen time your child is getting.”
The dangers of too much screen time
“Screen time is affecting how active kids are, and it’s having a large impact on a lot of my patients’ weight and nutrition goals.”
When you were a kid, your parents’ main concern about screen time was likely that it would turn you into a “coach potato.” Now we have research showing your parents were right: Screen time is correlated with sedentariness and obesity rates.
In fact, screen time is even worse for kids than other forms of sedentariness. Researchers behind a study published in Frontiers in Pediatrics found that kids who engaged in screen-based sedentary time were more likely to be overweight than kids who spent their sedentary time doing other things, such as reading or drawing.
“I’m seeing it at the clinic level, too,” Terrell said. “Screen time is affecting how active kids are, and it’s having a large impact on a lot of my patients’ weight and nutrition goals.”
And that’s not all. Screen time is also associated with a host of other health problems:
- Screen time is positively associated with depression in young people.
- The more screen time adolescents get per day, the more likely they are to engage in bullying, vandalism, vindictiveness and other defiant behaviors. The risk is highest in kids who spend much of their screen time on social media.
- Each hour of screen time increases a child’s risk of developing a binge-eating disorder in the year following.
- The more screen time a child gets, the more likely the child is to be diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder.
- Excessive screen time causes sleep disturbances, including insomnia in teens.
- Misguided screen time usage by parents can lead to more emotional outbursts in preschool-age children.
How much screen time is too much?
When it comes to setting screen time limits, parents have several factors to consider — the first being the age of your child. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently updated its guidelines on media usage:
- Children younger than 2: Screen time should be limited to video chatting with loved ones under a parents’ supervision.
- Children 18 months to 24 months: If parents choose to allow kids this age to watch videos, they should choose high-quality, educational programming and watch with them.
- Children 2 years to 5 years: Limit screen time to one hour of educational, nonviolent content per day and watch with them.
Acknowledging that most schoolwork involves at least some screen time, the American Academy of Pediatrics scrubbed its previous recommendation of limiting screen time for kids older than 5 to two hours per day. Instead, the academy stresses the importance of balancing screen time with other activities, including family time, physical activity and sleep.
Need help figuring out what that looks like? Check out Academy’s interactive, customizable family media plan. It’s full of great ideas for establishing screen time limits in your household.
Expert primary care
The Pediatric Primary Care program of Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt ensures quality care for the region’s children, as close to home as possible.