I’m sure that every parent has some experience with the dreaded topic of “screen time.” Almost every child I know has some kind of electronic device such as a tablet or a phone.  My own household has had it’s “screen time” drama, when I had to pry my 9-year-old daughter’s tablet out of her hands because she had been on it for more than the hour I typically allow on the weekends. I actually noticed a behavioral change in her when I let her play on her tablet too much. My typically sweet, upbeat, and cooperative daughter turned into a cranky and emotional monster.

Most people are aware that screen time is not appropriate for children less than 2 years old. There is no benefit to it, and it can actually harm the developing young brain. However, too much screen time is harmful to everybody, regardless of your age.  It can affect all of us by causing eye strain and headaches, poor sleep, back pain, carpal tunnel, heart disease, and obesity.

The effects of screen time are even worse for children.  Doctors have discovered a premature thinning of the cortex, which process information from the sense, on brain scans done on children who have too much screen time.  They also found that children who were looking at a screen for more than two hours a day received lower scores on comprehension and language tests.  Teenagers (and adults) who are very active on social media can be addicted to their screens, as doctors have found that looking at their screen can release dopamine, a brain chemical that is responsible for addiction.

So what are the guidelines for what is “too much” screen time?  The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests:

Children under 18 months: no screen time recommended

Children 18 to 24 months: only high-quality media, watched with their parents

Children 2 – 5 years old: less than one hour per day of high-quality programming, watched with their parents

Written by: Christine Clark, Assistant Director