NEWS9 Special Assignment: Too much screen time
Screen time is something most of us are familiar with. Whether it's TV, a tablet or a smartphone, we are constantly surrounded by screens.
But how much is too much, especially for our kids?
Doctor Elizabeth Massella, a pediatrician with Weirton Medical Center, said there are dangers in excessive screen time.
"The risks of media interactive types is it takes them away from more productive activities,” she said. “It can distract them from homework and interferes with learning. It keeps them sedentary.”
Massella said children younger than 2 can't understand what they're seeing and screens don't contribute to learning.
And, as kids get older, the type of content matters, whether it's cartoons or violent video games. She says parents play an important role in keeping an eye on their kids.
“Families can get together and decide what's going to work for them. Then they can set limits with their kids accordingly,” Massella said.
JT Milhoan is your average 8-year-old. He likes soccer, flossing and YouTube. His parents Melissa and Jeff have come up with a system of sorts.
“I personally don't limit the number of hours a day. It's a reward system is how I use it,” Melissa said.
“I try to get on my phone, but I have to do homework, which is the worst,” JT said.
For the Milhoans, it's all about striking a balance. JT plays soccer 3 days a week and must maintain his grades. But, when he's on the phone, his parents are right there.
"We're not big on letting him go into a different room,” Melissa said. “He needs to be in the same room with us.”
"We don't let him use headphones so we can hear what he's watching,” Jeff said.
It's that kind of monitoring that's led JT to some older, family-friendly programs like Mr. Rogers and helped him gain an appreciation for his favorite band.
Too much screen time is an ever-evolving topic, one where Massella says technology often outpaces research, but she encourages parents of her patients that it's OK to say no.
"As we all try to be more mindful of how we use our devices, maybe we can put them down for a while and just interact,” Masella said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued some guidelines regarding screen time. Here are its recommendations:
- Kids younger than 18 months should avoid media other than video chatting.
- Kids ages 2-5 should limit to 1 hour of high quality programming a day.
- Kids six and older should have a consistent limit set by parents or guardians.
- There is an interactive planning tool on the AAP’s website.