The average 8- to 10-year-old spends nearly 8 hours a day with a variety of different media, and older children and teenagers spend more than 11 hours per day, according to a study cited by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
“It can be hard for parents to manage media use when temptations are all around,” notes Lisa Sperry, RN, BSN, MHA, CCRN, Director of the Children’s Medical Center at Summerlin Hospital. “Knowing the risks and recommendations is a good place to start.”
What are the risks?
Excessive time spent looking at TV screens, computers and other electronic devices has been linked to a number of problems, such as eye strain and loss of social skills. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) notes that too much screen time can:
- Make it hard for your child to sleep at night. Blue light from electronics is said to prevent the release of melatonin, a hormone that tells your body it’s time to sleep.
- Increase your child's risk of obesity. Sitting, snacking and exposure to unhealthy food advertisements can contribute to weight gain and other related problems like high blood pressure and increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Raise your child’s risk of attention problems, anxiety and depression. Screen time can take away from socializing, reading or athletic activities, which can protect against depression, a ScienceDaily article on teen media exposure notes.
Online bullying or "cyber bullying," can be another concern. A survey conducted by researchers at the NIH found that higher depression reported cyber victims underscores the need to monitor and obtain treatment when cyber bullying occurs.
“If you feel your child is experiencing depression or other mental health issues due to cyber bullying or for another reason, we can help you get the support you need,” says Sperry. “Spring Mountain Treatment Center, which is affiliated with Summerlin Hospital, provides 24-hour mobile assessments and referrals for pediatric patients.”
How much is healthy?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents monitor what media their children use and:
- Limit the amount of entertainment screen time to less than one to two hours per day.
- Discourage screen media exposure for children less than two years of age.
An article on healthychildren.org, from the American Academy of Pediatrics, says that “children up to age 3 learn better from the real world than they do from any screen, especially when it comes to language.”
“Specifically, children are programmed to learn from interacting with other people,” the article notes. “A toddler learns a lot more from banging pans on the floor while you cook dinner than he does from watching a screen for the same amount of time, because every now and then the two of you look at each other.”
“Media can have positive effects, like providing education and offering a way for people to connect with one another,” says Sperry. “The key is to use it responsibly and help your kids do the same.”
If you’re concerned your child may be anxious, depressed or experiencing other negative thoughts or feelings, you can schedule an assessment at Spring Mountain Treatment Center by calling 702-873-2400. All calls are confidential.