Kids are spending more time than ever in front of screens. In fact, the Mayo Clinic reports that kids spend an average of seven to 10 hours on screens each day. Electronics like TVs, computers, and tablets are a popular source of entertainment and education. But did you know spending too much time in front of them can negatively affect your child’s health?
A recent Cleveland Clinic study found that too much screen time actually harms children’s development—especially in those under age 5. At this age, the mind is in a critical phase of growth. Kids need to explore their environments and improve motor skills. But that doesn’t happen if they spend all of their time looking at an electronic device.
The early years are crucial for children to spend quality face-to-face time with their parents and caregivers. Without this interaction, children may lack verbal and nonverbal interpersonal skills. Too much screen time can also lead to:
- Trouble sleeping
- Lower grades in school
- Less time spent with family and friends
- Less time learning ‘offline’ ways to relax and have fun
- Not spending enough time outdoors
- Less physical activity and weight problems
- Poor self-image
As part of our 5-2-1-0 program, we recommend limiting screen time to no more than two hours each day. Additionally, we recommend no screen time at all for children under age two. For kids and adults alike, keep TVs, computers, and other devices away from where you sleep.
Need tips on cutting back your child’s screen time? We’re here to help.
Setting screen time limits
The earlier you set limits and expectations, the easier it is for your kids to form healthy screen time habits. Waiting longer to set screen time boundaries will make it more difficult to scale back. Check out other tips to help you get started.
- Be realistic. If your kids spend a lot of their free time in front of screens, start with smaller goals. Begin by cutting their current screen time in half rather than jumping straight into a limit of one or two hours a day.
- Create phone-free zones. Establish areas where family members always put away their phones, like at the dinner table. Designate a spot to leave phones overnight, so they’re not being used before bed and when they wake up.
- Be engaged. Spend quality face-to-face time with your kids each day. Go for a walk, start a garden, cook healthy recipes together—there are limitless possibilities for having family fun without screens.
- Be accountable. Set clear goals and expectations with your kids and stick to them. Make an effort to reduce your own screen time, too.
- Go outside. Playing outside will boost your entire family’s mood. Going outdoors increases your endorphins and gives your brain that happy feeling, which is great for your short- and long-term health.
Still not sure where to start? The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry has more helpful tips and guidelines for reducing your child’s screen time.
May 3-9 is Screen-Free Week. Rediscover the joys of life beyond screens by replacing screen-based entertainment with offline activities.
Don’t think of this week as what you’re giving up—think about what you gain. Half an hour spent scrolling through social media can turn into half an hour of hide-and-seek. An hour spent watching cartoons can become an hour of doodling, reading, or playing pretend.
You can also make screen-free time part of your weekly routine with Screen-Free Saturdays. Take this one day each week to turn off your home’s devices and instead experience connection, reflection, and quality time. It’s an excellent opportunity to take a break from constant digital contact. And it’s fantastic for your physical and mental health!
Looking for more advice on supporting your child’s development and setting them up for a healthy future? Check out our partners Frederick County Pediatrics to learn more or schedule an appointment.