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  • Writer's pictureDr. Mojgan Makki

Summer Screen Time, Part 2

Last week we provided a quiz about screen usage among children and adolescents. This week we will discuss the answers and provide advice for parents who are worried that their kids will be spending too much time on screens this summer.

1) 60% of 13 to 17-year-olds have at least one social media profile.

As more teens use social media and online communication, there are both benefits and detriments. While social media allow teens to connect with communities of like-minded peers, it can also can lead to online bullying and shaming because of anonymity.

2) Children aged 18 to 24 months should not spend any time looking at screens, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ 2016 guidelines.

Even though children this young cannot fully comprehend what they are seeing on screens, they can mimic the behaviors and reactions they see and can develop beliefs in response to how their parents react to advertising. Instead, spend time reading age-appropriate books and playing age-appropriate games with your toddlers.

3) The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against too much screen time, but does not give a specific time limit, as long as it doesn’t replace time needed for sleeping, eating, being active, studying, and interacting with family and friends.

For years, the AAP recommended screen time for children and adolescents be limited to two hour per day. They updated these guidelines because screen time now includes phones and tablets. Don’t misinterpret this recommendation to mean that unlimited screen time is okay for teens. Many studies point to the detrimental effects of excessive screen time, from increased depression to attention issues.

4) A mother whose son texts friends 15-20 times a day and functions well can be assured that this is normal.

In fact, teens who own cell phones send and receive an average of 30 texts per day. Teens use messaging through texts, apps, and social media as their preferred way to communicate with their friends.

5) Disruption of the parent-child dyad is the most concerning effect of digital media on young children.

This is problematic because the parent-child bond is the most important factor in developing healthy emotional and cognitive skills in children. This bond can be affected when the child or parent spends too much time on media.

6) For a long time, experts have recommended that televisions be placed in a shared space in the household, no matter the age of the children.

Unfortunately, most parents don’t follow these guidelines. As more families own multiple individual devices, more children and teens are likely to use these devices alone in their rooms. This increases isolation and undermines the benefits that watching programs together can provide.

7) Some studies found increased screen time is linked to increased depression and anxiety in teens.

A study conducted in 2018 by San Diego State University psychologist Dr. Jean Twenge and University of Georgia psychology professor Dr. W. Keith Campbell found that after only one hour of screen time per day, children and teens start to show less curiosity, lower self-control, less emotional stability, and are less likely to complete tasks.

8) There is such thing as “good” screen time and “bad” screen time. Not all screen time should be considered equal.

In addition to deciding how much time their children spend on screens, parents should also think about how they are being used by differentiating between positive and negative screen time. For example, parents may want to set strict limits on time spent playing video games and watching Netflix, while allowing more flexibility for screen time used for school work, chatting with friends, or learning new skills.

Hopefully these explanations will be helpful as you contemplate what this summer is going to look like for your kids. With social distancing still in place, we recommend allowing teens to interact with friends through social media, but encourage them to do so in a shared room of your home, so you can monitor them and make sure they don’t isolate themselves in their rooms for too much of the day. Also, make sure they participate in several activities each day that do not involve screens, like family time and meals, physical activities, and chores around the house. Next week, we will provide ideas for keeping your teens busy, motivated, and safe this summer by sharing what several enterprising young adults in our area are planning to do in lieu of camp, jobs, and internships.

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