How Much Screen Time is Too Much?

Hands using an iPad in front of laptop

Hands using an iPad in front of laptop As the debate continues over how much screen time kids should be exposed to, many parents in Silicon Valley have taken an extreme position. Not only have they forbade their children any screen time, but they also restrict their children’s nannies.

It’s hard to understand the irony that parents who work in the largest concentration of high-tech companies in the United States, whose job is to design technology that lures people into being on their devices 24/7, are now banning their children from the very gadgets they create.

While I understand the need to limit children’s screen time, what is the balance between zero and enough time to prepare them for the 21st century? What defines screen time? How much does age matter? Should I count screen time that takes place during school?

Silicon Valley parents are increasingly obsessed with keeping their children away from screens. Even a little screen time can be so deeply addictive, some parents believe, that it’s best if a child neither touches nor sees any of these glittering rectangles. These particular parents, after all, deeply understand their allure.” ~ Nellie Bowles, Silicon Valley Nannies Are Phone Police for Kids

Most of us know that limiting children’s screen time is beneficial. Having grown up when the only screen available was a television, it was easy to maintain screen time limits to two half-hour shows a day.

Now, even adults are challenged with maintaining healthy balances between being on devices and uninterrupted face-to-face time with people. Even further, knowing our children have to prepare for college and career, finding that magic balance seems tricky.

Luckily, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) established guidelines for recreational screen time:

Adding to the AAP recommendations, the results of a recent study of over 4,500 children suggests that “children who use smartphones and other devices in their free time for less than two hours a day performed better on cognitive tests assessing their thinking, language, and memory.”

So what do we do with all this information?

First, it’s important to separate school and homework screen time from recreational. Academic screen time should not count against television, games, or social media.

Second, screen time limits shouldn’t only apply to children. The “do as I say, not as I do” rules will create frustration and encourage kids to find ways to sneak around the rules. Instead, families should work towards following a family media plan, including screen free areas and times.

Screens are part of our lives. There is no doubt they have changed the culture in both good and bad ways. As parents, we can establish and maintain healthy limits.

The trick is always holding ourselves to the same standards as our children. Perhaps putting away the screens for a bit each day can improve our lives. What do you think? Are you game?

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