Managing your child's screen time
When you limit screen time, you give your child the gift of more time to read and engage in active play.
The Center for Screen-Time Awareness sponsors "Turnoff Week" twice a year, generally in April and September. On the center's website, you can order kits with posters and materials for home and school, and check out links to special "Turnoff" events at Barnes and Nobles stores.
By GreatSchools Staff
Children ages 8 to 18 spend, on average, close to 45 hours per week watching TV, playing video games, instant messaging, and listening to music online — far more time than they spend with their parents or in the classroom, according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation. While media exposure can be beneficial, research abounds on how much and what subject matter is appropriate for children.
More studies sound the alarms
Childhood obesity is on the rise. A 2009 study reported in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine notes that one in four preschoolers is obese. Experts say it's because kids aren't getting enough exercise and eating a healthy diet. Too much screen time — whether it be in front of a TV, computer, or video game — is part of the problem.
An American Academy of Pediatrics study found that teenagers ages 12 to 14 who are exposed to entertainment media with high sexual content are twice as likely to have sex by the time they are 16 than those exposed to less sexual material. And a study by the Center on Media and Child Health found that children who watched violent content spent less time with friends than children who watched nonviolent content, resulting in more isolation. Other research has linked television watching to an increased rate of obesity and aggressive physical and verbal behavior in children.
Children who spend too much time in front of the TV or computer have "little time for exercising their predispositions for fantasy, imagination, and creativity," writes child development professor and best-selling author David Elkind in his book The Power of Play: How Spontaneous, Imaginative Activities Lead to Happier and Healthier Children. Other critics note that it is very difficult to prove a direct cause-and-effect relationship between media exposure and emotional and behavioral problems. But savvy parents should certainly be on the lookout for signs of behavioral changes in their children and adjust media exposure accordingly.
What's a parent to do?
With the array of media available for our kids today — and their amazing ability to watch TV, instant message, and listen to music all at the same time — what's the best way to balance media exposure with other activities? How can you monitor what and how much your child consumes? Two organizations offer tools and reviews to help parents navigate the fast-moving media world.
Common Sense Media is devoted to providing "trustworthy information and tools, as well as an independent forum, so that families can have a choice and a voice about the media they consume."
"Media is a force for negative as well as positive," says Peter Katz, director of marketing for the nonprofit, nonpartisan organization. "You wouldn't let your child eat junk food 24 hours a day. Just as children need a moderate diet of food, so do they need a moderate media diet. Parents need to make informed decisions."
The Parents' Choice Foundation, the nation's oldest nonprofit guide to children's media, is another source of information for parents seeking guidance.
"Kids are tired of being told what they can't do and what they can't see. They want to know what they can do and see," says Claire Green, Parents' Choice president. Parents' Choice conducts an annual awards program and reviews books, toys, music, television, software, video games, Web sites and magazines. "Parents have tough jobs," Green says. "They must be cheerleaders and goalkeepers, fence builders, and fence menders. Parents must do their best to keep their children safe, keep them well, open their minds — and remember to shut the back door."