The average American child spends 40 hours a week in front of screens, not including computer time at school. In fact, American children spend more time with electronic media than they do in any other activity, aside from sleep.
That’s a whole lot more than what the American Association of Pediatrics recommends for healthy development, which is a maximum of 1-2 hours daily in front of any screen for children over age two, and none for children under two. With kids logging that kind of ‘screen overtime,’ it’s not surprising that many parents give up trying to limit their kids’ screen time at all.
One group of researchers from Iowa State University believes it’s very important and worthwhile for parents to set limits on kids’ screen time. Their study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, examines what happens to kids when their parents make a concerted effort to monitor media use on a regular basis.
They followed 1323 children for seven months and found that parental monitoring of media use resulted in more sleep, better academic performance, less aggressive and more social behavior. It was also linked to lower rates of obesity.
Lead author, Douglas Gentile, explained that parents are often reluctant to place limits on screen time because the positive results are so slow in coming – up to seven months, in this case.
“Even with changes that we do notice, we really don’t recognize in the moment how all these things are related to each other across time. As screen time goes up, school performance goes down, but that doesn’t happen overnight. If I watch a lot of TV today, I don’t get an F in my class tomorrow.” (Medical Xpress)
Gentile hopes that family physicians and pediatricians will get on board with informing parents about the importance of regulating screen time, as it is a health issue. “Even if doctors only influence 10 percent of the parents, that’s still millions of children having much better health outcomes as a result.”