screen time

I come from the first generation of children for whom “screen time” was an issue for parents.  Our video technology was limited to “the idiot box” as our parents called the TV.  But now there is so much more: smart phones, tablets, ipods, laptops, apps.  These innovations certainly can offer many advantages, but they are like oxygen: some is now absolutely necessary for modern living: too much and you get burned.

Some trends:

  • In 1961 children began watching TV by age 2.8 years.  Now its 9 months.
  • In 2005 children typically started using consumer electronic devices by age 8.1 years; today it’s 6.7 years
  • 52% of children < 1 yr watch TV and videos > 2.5 hours; 60% of 1 year olds and 71% 2 year olds watch > 3 hours
  • Average screen time 7.5 hours/day; 6.5 hours in 2005
  • 2 hours more on mobile devices
  • 70% of children have TV in their rooms
  • Video games are $2.1 billion business in the US

(Above statistics are from

All of these screen time issues can have some significant deleterious effetcs on your child’s development and well being: sleep disruption, disrupted learning. obesity, even emotional development.

Please note that the evidence of educational or language development benefit from video media use among toddlers and young school age children, at best, is variable.  As I’ve mentioned previously, you will get much more education “bang” for your effort “buck” by reading to your kid as opposed to using most computer technology or apps.

And we pediatricians harangue you young parents with brilliant ideas to enlighten you(or make you nervous) about what to do: no screen time < age 2 years, max 1 hour screen/time/day, no TV in the kid’s room, no internet in the kid’s room(how do you even do that in the days of household wi-fi?)

Why do I bring this up now?  A recent article addresses this very topic and makes a  very important point: “physician, heal thyself.” Quite literally, as I am very much as guilty as the next guy here, so I am no one to lecture.  But please check out the link and read the article.  To summaraize: if you want your child to have a healthy interaction with these media options, especially as the technology evolves and advances, we–their adult role models–must do a better job ourselves.  So pay attention to your media usage, and endeavor to practice what “I preach.”  I will, too!

Please send along questions or comments, and thanks for follwoing.

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