Unplug That Screen – You Can Do It!

Ever had to wrestle a digital screen from your screaming child? Controlling screen time can be a monumental challenge—screens are everywhere, and young (and old) brains are easily addicted.

“Screen time poses a larger challenge than the negative impact of blue light from a cell phone or tablet on quantity and quality of sleep,” said Dhuha Raab, DO, family medicine physician with Memorial Care – Koke Mill. “Screen time impacts the pleasure center in our brains and can lead to addiction.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following guidelines for screen use:

  • For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting. Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age should choose high-quality programs if they want to introduce digital media. Watch with your children to help them understand what they are seeing.
  • For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to one hour per day of high-quality programs including age-appropriate programs from Public Broadcasting Station (PBS), Discovery Channel, Learning Channel or History Channel.
  • Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.
  • For children age six and older, place consistent limits on the time spent using media and the types of media. Make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health.
  • Designate media-free times together, such as dinner or driving, as well as media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms.
  • Talk together often about online citizenship and safety, including treating others with respect online and offline.

Here are other tips to help your family reduce screen time:

  1. Be a role model. Be aware of your own phone use habits. Resist picking up your phone at every moment. Choose to be present and enjoy life. Avoid bringing your phone to bed.
  2. Set goals to reduce use. The American Academy of Pediatrics provides a media plan template to help you plan device-free time and meals that applies to the whole family.
  3. Engage in family activities that replace screen time. Trips to the zoo, a walk around the neighborhood, puzzle/game/craft time are all examples of family activities that can replace screen time.

“Reducing screen time is beneficial for mental, social and physical health and helps families better connect with one another instead of with their screens,” continued Dr. Raab. “Consider making changes to benefit your family.”

Have more questions? Speak with your pediatrician or primary care provider.

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