It seems that every generation has worried about the volume of interaction their children have with some sort of media – radio, television, computers and cell phones. How many of you have sat at a dinner table and been interrupted by a cell phone? The next time you are eating out, look around you and watch the younger people interacting.
According to a recent study by the Kaiser Foundation, the average 8 to 10 year old spends eight hours per day on some sort of screen, and teenagers spend more than 11 hours per day on their phones, watching TV and surfing the Web. If a child has a television in their bedroom, the statistics are even higher. However, what I find most shocking is that this is the second leading activity among our kids – second only to sleeping.
These eight to 11 hours are spent on various screen-time activities.
- TV: Television is the major form of screen time and typically accounts for four hours of the day.
- Computers: The computer accounts for about one and a half hours of time, and much of it is spent on social networking sites or watching videos.
- Cell phones: On average, teenagers send 3,364 texts per month.
The cell phone has granted portability to our kids. Since 2004, cellphone use has increased 45-75 percent among 12 to 17 year olds. Not only are they surfing the Web and watching videos on their phones, but learning to only communicate with their friends through texting. Well over half of teens send or receive texts after “lights out,” and approximately two-thirds state that they have no rules surrounding the use of any type of screen.
I am not advocating getting rid the family TV or cell phones. My kids have them, too. But the combined data above has spurred the American Academy of Pediatrics to publish the following recommendations for parents on limiting and monitoring the use.
- Limit the entertainment screen time to one to two hours daily.
- Discourage screen use if less than 2 years old.
- No TV or Internet connected devices in their rooms.
- Monitor Internet usage and sites being visited.
- Develop a home plan for better use among all family members (like no phones at dinner).
I will probably hear about this post at home, hopefully through words and not a text message.
Gregory Sweat, MD, is the Medical Director of the Shawnee Mission Physicians Group and practices Family Medicine at Shawnee Mission Primary Care - Prairie View Medical Building.