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  • Writer's pictureSara Filipčić

Navigating Screen Time for School-Aged Children: A Guide for Concerned Parents

In today’s digital age, screens are ubiquitous in our daily lives, from smartphones and tablets to computers and televisions. For parents like Kay Bella, who are concerned about the impact of excessive screen time on their children's health and development, finding the right balance can be challenging. This blog post draws upon recent research to offer guidance on managing screen time for 12 and 14-year-olds, especially during the school week, and explores strategies to mitigate the potential negative effects of screen overuse.


Your guide for managing screen time for school-aged kids
Managing screen time

Understanding the Impact of Screen Time

A comprehensive study reviewed literature from various databases, revealing that children aged 6 to 14 spend an average of 2.77 hours per day on screens, with a noticeable increase during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study also highlighted a concerning trend: the rate of children exceeding 2 hours of screen time daily jumped from 41.3% before January 2020 to 59.4% after, underscoring the pandemic's significant influence on digital media consumption. Excessive screen time has been linked to a range of adverse outcomes, including increased risks of myopia, obesity, depression, sleep disorders, and other health issues, making it a public health concern.

Recommendations for Screen Time Management

Given the potential negative impacts of excessive screen use, it's crucial for parents to implement strategies that help balance screen time with other healthy activities. Here are some recommendations based on the findings of the study and best practices in child development:

  • Limit Recreational Screen Time: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests limiting screen time to no more than 2 hours per day for children over 2 years old. This includes time spent on entertainment, such as gaming and watching Netflix, but allows for flexibility with educational use.

  • Encourage Physical Activity: With children like Kay’s participating in after-school sports, it's essential to maintain a routine that balances physical activities with screen time. This not only promotes physical health but also provides a necessary break from digital devices.

  • Foster Non-Screen Hobbies: Encourage children to explore interests and hobbies that don't involve screens. This could include reading, art, music, or outdoor play, which can help reduce reliance on digital media for entertainment.

  • Create a Family Media Plan: Develop a plan that outlines when and how screens can be used at home, including homework, leisure time, and family movie nights. This approach helps set clear expectations and boundaries around screen use.

  • Promote Quality Sleep: Ensure screens are turned off at least an hour before bedtime to avoid sleep disturbances. Keeping devices out of bedrooms can also help improve sleep quality.

  • Model Healthy Screen Habits: Parents can lead by example by moderating their own screen use, demonstrating to children that it's possible to have a healthy relationship with digital media.

Addressing School Work and Screen Time

It’s a common challenge for parents to differentiate between screen time for school work and recreational use. To manage this, communication with children about their assignments and required screen time for school can help parents understand and monitor their educational screen use. Additionally, utilizing parental controls to limit access to non-educational content during study times can ensure that screen use is productive and not detrimental.

Conclusion

While technology undoubtedly plays a vital role in education and entertainment, striking a balance is key to safeguarding our children's health and well-being. By setting reasonable limits, encouraging a variety of activities, and fostering open communication about screen use, parents can help mitigate the negative impacts of excessive screen time. Remember, every family is different, and what works for one may not work for another. It’s important to find a balance that suits your family's needs and lifestyle.

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