In 1999, statistics showed that children and adolescents spent more than 3 hours a day on average watching TV. Today, with the multiple media formats available, children are now spending more than 7 hours a day on average using TV, computers, phones and other electronic devices for entertainment.
With the increasing availability of media, some of which has inappropriate content, it is imperative that parents understand the ways that media may affect our children and adolescents.
Overuse of digital media and screens may place your child at risk. Some of the risk concerns would include obesity, sleep problems, school performance, risky behaviors, cyberbullying, and opening up the possibility of privacy issues and sexual predators.
Guidelines for healthy media use would include:
- Checking your children’s media use for their own health and safety
- Placing consistent limits on the hours of media use as well as the type of media used
- Avoiding exposure to media devices for the hour prior to bedtime
- Discouraging media use while doing homework
- Talk with your children and adolescents about media safety, cyberbullying and online solicitations
- Set good examples for your children by turning off the TV and setting your phones down during family time/dinner time
What we should be doing is taking the time to explore other entertainment options with your children. Spring is coming! Get out and go for a walk, ride a bike, or take a hike as a family. If you like more indoor activities, play a board game or read a book with your children. Have your adolescents actually “hang out” with their friends ‘in person’ instead of virtually.
Each year there is a “Screen Free Week” that challenges children, adolescents and their families to go for a week without (or reduced) screen time. From April 30-May 6, 2018, children, families, entire schools, and communities will rediscover the joys of life beyond the screen. Plan to unplug from digital entertainment and spend all that free time playing, reading, daydreaming, creating, exploring, and connecting with family and friends!
Dr Rebecca Daniels – Williamsville Pediatric Center