The screen’s the thing

Parents and kids can’t turn off the TV or phone

By Lynde Langdon


(WNS)–When it comes to screen time, many parents are ignoring pediatricians’ recommendations, a study released Thursday by Common Sense Media found. The survey looked at media use habits among children ages 0-8 and found several alarming statistics:

▪ Nearly half (49 percent) of all children ages 8 and under sometimes or often use screen media in the hour before bedtime, something the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) warns against because screen exposure can affect melatonin levels and delay or disrupt sleep.

▪ Studies have linked background television (when the TV is on but nobody is watching) to shorter attention spans and lower cognitive performance in children. But 42 percent of parents surveyed said they kept the TV in their house on always or most of the time.

The screen’s the thing▪ The AAP also recommends no screen exposure for children younger than 18 months because it disrupts necessary interactions with caregivers that digital entertainment cannot duplicate. Despite that, children under 2 spend an average of 42 minutes a day using screen media, the study found, and 34 percent of them watch TV every day.

▪ Children from lower-income homes get an average of one hour and 39 minutes more screen time per day than kids in middle- and higher-income homes—a ratio of three hours and 29 minutes to one hour and 50 minutes.

Dr. Jenny Radesky wrote the policy paper that laid out the AAP’s revised screen time guidelines for children in 2016.

“While our 2016 media guidelines were designed to be more family-centered and action-oriented, the Zero to Eight findings tell us that these messages are not reaching the majority of parents, especially the families facing more stress and adversity,” Radesky wrote in a report of the survey’s key findings.

The survey had a few bright spots in its results: Children’s average screen time has stayed roughly the same since 2011 at two hours and 19 minutes per day, though time spent on mobile devices now has a much bigger piece of the pie. Also, children still overwhelmingly prefer reading books to reading on digital devices. Of the 29 minutes on average kids spend reading each day, only about three minutes is spent looking at a screen.

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