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16 • November/December 16 How Much Screen Time is OK? Screen time is an inevitable part of today’s childhood. Between iPads, smartphones, computers and televisions, it’s almost impossible to go through the day without being in front of some sort of screen. While there are many educational apps and tv shows out there that can help to sharpen a child’s developing brain, we know too much of anything isn’t good. So how much screen time is ok? According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s Medline Plus, most American children spend about 3 hours a day watching TV. Added together, all types of screen time can total 5 to 7 hours a day. Too much screen time can: • Make it hard for your child to sleep at night • Raise your child’s risk of attention problems, anxiety, and depression • Raise your child’s risk of gaining too much weight (obesity) Screen time increases your child’s risk of obesity because: • Sitting and watching a screen is time that is not spent being physically active. • TV commercials and other screen ads can lead to unhealthy food choices. Most of the time, the foods in ads that are aimed at kids are high in sugar, salt, or fats. • Children eat more when they are watching TV, especially if they see ads for food. Computers can help kids with their schoolwork. But surfing the internet, spending too much time on Facebook, or watching YouTube videos is considered unhealthy screen time. Medline Plus suggests these current guidelines for screen time: • Children under age 2 should have no screen time. • Limit screen time to 1 to 2 hours a day for children over age 2. • Despite what ads may say, videos that are aimed at very young children do not improve their development. To decrease screen time, Medline Plus states that cutting down to 2 hours a day can be hard for some children because TV may be such a large part of their daily routines. But you can help your children by telling them how sedentary activities affect their overall health. Talk to them about things they can do to be healthier. To Decrease Screen Time: • Remove the TV or computer from your child's bedroom. • DO NOT allow TV watching during meals or homework. • DO NOT let your child eat while watching TV or using the computer. • DO NOT leave the TV on for background noise. Turn on the radio instead, or have no background noise. • Decide which programs to watch ahead of time. Turn off the TV when those programs are over. • Suggest other activities, such as family board games, puzzles, or going for a walk. • Keep a record of how much time is spent in front of a screen. Try to spend the same amount of time being active. • Be a good role model as a parent. Decrease your own screen time to 2 hours a day. • If it is hard not having the TV on, try using a sleep function so it turns off automatically. • Challenge your family to go 1 week without watching TV or doing other screen-time activities. Find things to do with your time that get you moving and burning energy. Online: www.medlineplus.gov


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