Like most parents in the U.S., you probably find yourself concerned with how much screen time your kids get every week.

Many people believe that children who spend too much time glued to a screen are at risk for slower development or developing severe conditions like anxiety and depression.
A new study has finally put this popular belief to rest, and it found that long periods of screen time aren't harmful to kids' development! It is great news for parents who worry about the amount of time their kids spend playing video games or watching TV.

The University of Colorado-Boulder researchers conducted the study. Their report concluded that teens who had increased screen time had a minimally higher risk of developing an attention disorder, getting lower grades or creating irregular sleeping patterns. The researchers believe that exposing children to media with age-appropriate messages and content is beneficial. Not only will kids develop better problem-solving skills from playing video games, but they'll also learn about new topics or cultures from educational TV shows or movies.

Researchers believe that while there is no harm in long screen periods, there should continually be monitoring. Parents should consider the content of what their child is watching or playing and should regulate time to prevent high-risk behavior.

How much time do kids spend watching screens?

According to a census from Commonsense Media, kids spend an average of four hours and 44 minutes on screen time daily. Teens spend an average of seven hours and 22 minutes on their devices. If your teen increased their screen time by just 10 minutes daily, it doesn't seem like a lot, but by the end of the year, those extra 10 minutes have garnered a total of 61 hours of screen time. Which again why researchers said screen time should continuously get monitored mindfully.

Nearly 41 percent of tween parents (Kids 12-15) have reported that they find it hard to control their child's screen time. If you are worried about the content your child or teen is using, use parental control settings to create times and limit the sites and apps they can access. When kids get left to their own devices, they often watch shows or play games with little educational value. Limiting what they can access might motivate them to stay off the devices for a bit if they can't binge on their favorite show all day or see how many likes their new Instagram post has every 15 minutes.

If screen time gets used correctly, there are a ton of benefits which include the following.

  • Online games can help kids develop creativity and improve teamwork skills
  • Your child can consume endless knowledge from the internet's library of information
  • Special needs children can connect more accessible online without a social barrier

Research also shows that children in homes with access to the internet and usage of that internet perform higher than their peers in homes without internet access. So don't be so quick to call screen time the devil's temptation.

The study from Colorado researchers reported that children were at risk for developing irregular sleeping patterns, which is why it's essential to give time limits. Also, the study reported that students could get lower grades which could be just because they're not using the screen time for any educational or learning benefit. They are likely just spending too much time on unnecessary sites and social media.

The pandemic has undoubtedly had a significant effect on screen time, with kids spending way more time indoors, which translates to more time on a device. During the week, we recommend limiting all screentime for homework or educational purposes and leaving the weekends for fun.

Diana Graber, author of Raising Humans in a Digital World and Founder of Cyber Civics/Cyberwise had this to say about screen time and the benefits.

"[O]ne can either be 'participant' or a 'consumer' when it comes to screen time. Skype and FaceTime are great examples of "participating" with screens (rather than mindlessly consuming YouTube videos). Making and uploading a video, writing a blog post, engaging in a group chat about school work are all great examples of participating with media in ways that are positive and productive. The point is, not all screen time is 'bad.'"

So the next time you hear that screen time for kids is bad, understand that there are some great examples of children engaging in creative play on screens besides watching funny cat videos.
Be aware of screentime recommendations for different age groups because the amount of time your child spends on a screen should be different from your teenager.

Educators recommend the following guidelines when it comes to screen time limits.

Infants to 18 months

Screen time should get used for video chats like facetime between family. Maybe a parent went out of town and wants to check on the kids. This is a great time to introduce screen time but very limited.

18 to 24 months

Infants in this stage should only be watching educational programming like Sesame Street. Adults or caregivers should monitor the infant while they are watching tv.

Children between two and five

Children this small should be limited to no more than one hour of screen time daily and three hours for weekends.

Children six and older

This is where you, as the parent need to establish healthy habits for your children. Your seven-year-old should not be spending the same amount of time on screens that your 16-year-old is. Healthy habits include turning off devices for dinners and travel. You should also turn off or limit screen time anywhere from 30 minutes to 60 minutes before bedtime.

If you are super concerned about your child's screen time, it would be an excellent time to discuss the matter with your family pediatrician. If they believe there is an underlying problem with your child's screen time, they may refer you to a mental health professional.

When it comes to screen time, there is no one size fits all approach. So, just because your friend gives you an excellent recommendation, don't feel defeated or give up. What works for one family may not work for another.

As long as you take the time to consider your options, you're already one step ahead of everyone else.

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