(Editor's Note: In this blog, Dr. GiaQuinta discusses managing "screen time" for children ages 2 through the adolescent years. His previous post explored screen time guidelines and other helpful information for parents of younger children.)
As a parent and physician, I understand that in today’s digital world it can be challenging to safeguard your child from too much “screen time.” Here are some guidelines and helpful information for parents. I have broken it down into three age ranges: age 0-2 years; age 2 through adolescence; and the adolescent years.Ages 2 – Adolescence
Ok, you get two hours folks. The big difference at this stage is that toddlers are able to interpret the images and sounds from a television as corollaries from their real environment and DO have the potential to enhance verbal skills, basic learning (letters and numbers), and certain life experiences. Of course, I’m talking about educational television programming like "Sesame Street," "Mr. Rogers" (RIP) and nature programs (did you make your PBS donation this year, viewer-like-you?). Unfortunately, not all shows designed for children have such favorable effects. In fact, a study published just last year in Pediatrics found that 9 minutes of "fast paced" cartoons (i.e., "SpongeBob SquarePants") decreased a child’s executive functioning (I’m thinking "Ren and Stimpy" did not do me a lot of good either).
Other "hot-off-the-press" info to consider:
The Adolescent Years
So again, two hours is our TV viewing limit for the same reasons mentioned above. However, remember that screen time also includes internet, video games, cell phones, and tablets. Even though your child is older and perhaps more mature, the sexuality, violence, drugs, and alcohol exposures, and the context they are presented, could be confusing when presented in real-life scenarios.4
This can lead to bad decisions. Of course, these could be good opportunities for important-yet-awkward conversations, so try to be ready to tackle them when they arise. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends:
Again, it cannot be stressed enough that even educational TV is no a substitute for reading, playing, creativity, fantasy, communication, problem-solving and other activities that can only occur with the television off. Happy parenting!
~T. Anthony GiaQuinta, M.D.
1. Christakis, DA. Modifying Media Content for Preschool Children: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Pediatrics Vol. 128 No.2. February 2013.
2. Robertson, LA, et al. Childhood and Adolescent Television Viewing and Antisocial Behavior in Early Adulthood. Pediatrics Vol. 131 No. 2. February 2013.
3. Roberto, CA, et al. Influence of Licensed Characters on Children's Taste and Snack PreferencesPediatrics Vol. 126 No. 1 July 1, 2010 pp. 88-93.
4. Lillard AS, Peterson J. The immediate impact of different types of television on young children’s executive function. Pediatrics. 2011;128(4): 644–649.