By now, most of you are aware that too much screen viewing for children and teens is linked to elevated blood pressure, high cholesterol, lack of sleep, school problems, aggression, and being overweight. And we know that teen viewing habits often carry over to adult viewing habits.
So how are teens doing with the American Academy of Pediatricians’ recommendation to limit screen time to two hours or less a day. Yes, that is ALL screens. Furthermore, children under the age of two are supposed to have ZERO hours of screen time.
The 2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and the 2012 National Youth Fitness Survey reports the following:
- 31% of youths that are normal or underweight are meeting the guideline (this includes computer use)
- 23% of overweight and 20% of obese youths are meeting the guideline
- 99% of teens report watching TV every day
- 91% of teens report using their computers every day outside of school
- Gender differences for the amount of TV viewing were not significant, meaning there was little difference between boys and girls
- A break down of TV habits by race and Hispanic origin show 29% white, 26% Hispanic and 20% black teens meet daily screen-time requirements
Clearly, we still have work to do when it comes to limiting screen usage. And keep in mind these numbers could be low given it is difficult to capture screen usage with all the possible devices kids and teens could be using.
In my book, Raising Healthy Kids in an Unhealthy World, I encourage all parents to make a media plan and list several suggestions. Here are 5:
1) Take TV out of a child’s bedroom.
2) Find the “good media”. The right kind of media can improve learning and teach empathy, tolerance and interpersonal skills
3) Model good media usage as a parent. Kids watch what you do to learn.
4) Turn off the TV during meals and don’t have it on for background noise.
5) Bypass commercials in order to limit exposure to junk foods and other unhealthy choices.