2 – Hours or Less of Screen Time

2 - Hours or Less of Screen Time Header

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Excessive screen time, particularly for younger children, is associated with delays in language development, obesity, attention problems and even aggression, depending on the content. Screen time also may take time away from more beneficial activities that promote social development, such as reading, singing songs, interactive games and physical activity. So, even though it may be challenging to avoid televisions, computers and hand-held electronic devices, try to limit these to two hours or less each day.

Have a Family Talk

Explain to your kids that it is important to move more and sit less, in order to stay healthy. Health experts recommend no more than two hours of computer or television time each day, unless it is related to work or homework. Children younger than two should be kept away from television entirely. Never use TV time as a reward or punishment, this only makes it seem more important to children. And create screen-free bedrooms. Kids who have TVs or other electronic devices in their rooms tend to watch about 1.5 hours more of screen time each day than kids who don’t. And this keeps them from spending time with the rest of the family!

Set Screen Time Limits and Be a Good Example

Create a house rule that limits screen time to 1-2 hours a day max. And even more importantly, enforce the rule. Parents can be good role models by limiting their own screen time to two hours a day too. If your kids see you following the rules, they’re more likely to do the same!

Log Activity and Screen Time

Try creating a log of your screen time versus active time. This will help parents get a sense of what changes may be needed. Screen time includes watching TV and movies, playing video games and using the computer (outside of work or homework time). Physical activities include walking, doing active chores, playing sports, etc. If you see that your family logs in more screen time than active time, then sit down together and set goals to increase activity.

And even during screen time, do something active. Stretch, practice yoga poses, lift weights, walk on a treadmill, etc. Challenge each other to see who can do the most sit ups, push-ups or jumping jacks during the commercial breaks.

Get Up and Move

Break the habit of TV watching and give kids alternatives, such as playing outside, a new hobby or sport. While it may be especially hard at the end of a long day for everyone to get moving, try playing some fun, easy games that build their creativity and teamwork and get your kids out of couch-potato mode!

Fun Alternatives to Screen Time

Designate a cozy reading area with couches, pillows or bean bag chairs. Encourage children to go there to curl up with a book, puzzle or activity page. This is a great way for children to rest and unwind, particularly if they don’t take naps.

Ask older children to lead an activity that is appropriate for all ages such as reading aloud, singing songs, playing simple games (I Spy, Simon Says, 20 Questions, etc.), doing easy craft projects, acting out a story, sharing a special story or memory, etc.

Ways to Get Kids Away from Screens

Limiting screen time is tough, so here are some practical ideas for parents:

  • If you use screen time when you’re trying to get dinner on the table, try letting your kids help out with meal prep and getting the table ready instead.
  • If you use screen time when you are doing tasks like laundry done or bills paid, have a special item or box of items available to your children only during the periods when you need a minute kid-free.
  • If your habit is to watch a show together every evening, mix it up with a family game night or playing tag outside.

TV Undermines Family Life

Here are some pretty scary statistics about the effects of television and other screen devices.

On Families:

  • Amount of television that the average American watches per day: more than 4 hours
  • Percentage of US households with at least one television: 98
  • Percentage of US households with three or more TV sets: 41
  • Percentage of US households with at least one VCR: 85
  • Number of videos rented daily in the US: 6 million
  • Time per day that TV is on in an average US home: 7 hours, 40 minutes
  • Percentage of Americans who always or often watch television while eating dinner: 40
  • Time per week that parents spend in meaningful conversation with their children: 38.5 minutes
  • Percentage of parents who would like to limit their children’s TV watching: 73

On Preschool Children:

  • Average number of hours per week that American one year-old children watch television: 6
  • Number of hours recommended by the American Pediatric Association for children two and under: 0
  • Percentage of day care centers that use TV during a typical day: 70
  • Age by which children can develop brand loyalty: 2

On Elementary Children:

  • Average time per week that the American child ages 2-17 spends watching television: 19 hours, 40 minutes
  • Percentages of television-time that children ages 2-7 spend watching alone and unsupervised: 81
  • Percentage of children ages 8-16 who have a TV in their bedroom: 56
  • Hours of TV watching per week shown to negatively affect academic achievement: 10 or more
  • Percentage of children ages 8 and up who have no rules about watching TV: 61
  • Percentage of 4-6 year-olds who, when asked, would rather watch TV than spend time with their fathers: 54
  • Number of TV commercials viewed by American children a year: 20,000

On Teens:

  • Hours per year the average American youth spends in school: 900
  • Hours per year the average American youth watches television: 1,023
  • Percentage of young adults who admit to postponing their bedtime for the Internet or TV: 55
  • Number of violent acts the average American child sees on TV by age 18: 200,000
  • Number of murders witnessed by children on television by the age 18: 16,000
  • Percentage of youth violence directly attributable to TV viewing: 10
  • Percentage of children polled who said they felt “upset” or ‘scared” by violence on television: 91