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Kids and Screen Time

Written by: Mosaic Medical Pediatrician, Dr. Rebecca Hicks

The Holidays are here and for many parents, that means time to shop for gifts.  Buying our little ones holiday gifts can be a fun experience for parents…watching your little ones eyes light up when they get just exactly what they wanted!  For very littles, it might be a wooden toy train or a sweet baby doll on their wish list. But for older school age kids and tweens, more and more of their wish lists are filled with electronics and screens.  Yes, there is no doubt, most kids like to watch screens.  And while a bit of screen time each day is probably okay for many children, we know that excessive screen time can be very harmful to children.

A lot of research has come out lately showing us that too much screen time is NOT okay for children’s developing brains.  Kids’ brains are growing and changing every day!  And the environment a child is in…their activities, their interactions with other children and adults, the games they play, the words they hear, these things are all shifting the way a child’s brain develops.  When a child looks at screens for a significant part of their day, pathways are shifting in the brain, and not usually in a good way.

For infants and toddlers, as little as 30 minutes of screen time each day can lead to language delay.  For preschool age kids, more than 1-2 hours of screen time per day can lead to decreased focus, impatience, worse memory, and temper tantrums.  For school age kids, more than 2 hours per day of screen time is associated with shorter attention spans, poorer memory, slower processing speed, and lower language skills. For tweens and teens, more than 2 hours per day of screen time is associated with lower emotional intelligence, and worst of all, excessive screen time is associated with higher rates of unhappiness, depression and even suicidality.

Every child deserves to have the best possible environment to support healthy brain growth and good mental health.  One significant step in that direction for most kids and teens, is to decrease daily screen time.  For this Holiday Season, think about gifting non electronics to little ones and share in the joy of playing with classic toys and board games instead.  And if screens do make it onto the gift list, consider having those new screens come with rules about decreased screen time on the gift tag.  A new year is a great time to re-set family rules and decreased screen time for all just might be what your family needs to have a Healthy, Happy 2019.

If you are interested in learning more about the impact that screens have on your children, I’d love to see you in clinic and we can chat through the details.  I’ve got lots of tips for easing the transition.

Click here for some great additional information.