Limit screen time

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for healthier kids

A lot of kids spend more time in front of a screen than they do reading, talking with family and friends, or playing outside. It's also affecting their health.

Too much screen time is associated with:

  • violent behavior
  • poor school performance
  • lower reading scores
  • sleep pattern disturbances
  • being overweight
  • consumption of junk food
  • bad habits later in life (like tobacco and alcohol abuse)

Although some screen time can be educational and even encourage physical activity, it's all too easy to get sucked in. Health experts recommend limiting screen time to less than 2 hours a day for teens, less than 1 hour a day for children ages 2 through 12, and no screen time for children under 2. Help your kids find other things to do.

Tips for reducing screen time

  • Turn off the TV during meals, which encourages everyone to eat and talk together.
  • Keep computers, TVs, and video game consoles out of kids' bedrooms, and take cell phones, tablets, and iPods out of the bedroom at night.
  • Don't use screen time as a reward.
  • Designate certain days of the week as screen-free days.
  • Set a good example: limit your own screen time to 2 hours a day or less

What you can do instead

  • Exercise as a family by taking walks, riding bikes, or playing sports or active games together.
  • Do something active for at least 60 minutes each day.
  • Set up screen-free play dates.
  • Encourage your kids to write a story, draw, or create an art project.

If you have a toddler or preschooler

Keep your little one busy, safe, and happy when you are trying to get something done. Here are alternatives to screen time when you're preparing meals and for other occasions:

  • Set up a kitchen play station with a spoon and small bowl, plastic containers, or other safe household materials or toys.
  • Get kids 3 and older to help (set the table, tear lettuce for salad, or decorate place cards).
  • Engage an older sibling or neighbor to keep the kids safely amused.
  • Recorded books (often available from libraries) are a great alternative when you can't do the reading yourself.
  • Young children can be marvelously creative with some tape or glue and household materials, such as toilet paper tubes, cereal cartons, fabric scraps (or worn-out clothes), egg cartons, yogurt containers, and lids.

Reviewed by: Robert Riewerts, MD, 2018

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