Check the appropriateness of your kids’ media diet here

 

In America, media consumption and screen time are on the rise – among every generation. From toddlers to preteens, to tweens, teenagers, adults, and even the elderly. Members of every generation are interacting with television, computers, smartphones, and tablets – at an astonishing rate.

This has especially serious ramifications for children. With impressionable brains that are still developing, children often consume an excessive amount of media – whether it’s on a smartphone, tablet, or a computer.

In this article, we’ll examine the rise in media consumption among children and teenagers. We will discuss the effects that this phenomenon has on the mental and physical health of our kids – and help you understand some best practices and tips that will help you keep your kids from suffering a “screen time overdose.”

Introduction

We live in a digital world. There is no denying that. Today more than ever, our world is focused on screens. Smartphones, laptops, desktops, tablets, televisions, smartwatches – these screens have changed everything.

Digital technology has changed the way we work, the way we relax and unwind, and even the ways in which we communicate with one another. The development of the internet, smartphones, and other forms of digital communication and consumption is truly a milestone.

But, as with all innovations, our increasing reliance on the internet and digital devices is a double-edged sword. Increasingly, we are spending more and more time on our phones and laptops. Posting tweets, liking Instagram photos, browsing the internet, watching the latest Netflix series – we are using our screens more than ever before.

This may not seem like an issue – but it can pose some serious problems, especially for our children. Our kids are digital natives and being raised in a society that puts a premium on 24/7 digital connectivity and communication. If we, as parents, do not take control of their viewing habits and encourage healthy attitudes towards technology, we risk allowing them to suffer “screen time overdose”.

When kids and teenagers overuse digital technology, they may suffer from a variety of negative effects. These can include physical effects like an increased propensity towards obesity, mental health effects such as anxiety and depression, and much more. [American Academy of Pediatrics]

However, such a new kind of technology poses a number of difficulties for parents. How can we control what our kids watch? How can we make sure they don’t overuse technology – but still stay connected to others in our digital age? How much media is too much?

In this article, we’ll explore all of these topics – and more – in-depth. Let us be your guide to the proper use of digital technology with children and teenagers and learn more about the steps you can take to protect your kids from a “screen time overdose.”

 

Free Infographic (CC). See details.

 

Screen Time – On The Rise Over The Last Decade Across Every Generation

While screen time is on the rise among children and teenagers, the numbers behind screen time may actually surprise you. Here is a graph that shows the numbers behind screen time by generation: [Nielsen]

As you can see, baby boomers spend the most time on screens outside of work. This is because they tend to consume more radio, T.V. and other audio-based mediums.

Next is Generation X. Their TV and media use drops precipitously – but is replaced with increased usage of the mobile web and apps on smartphones and tablets. Gaming and multimedia device use also becomes more common.

Millennials are where you see the most dramatic shift in changing media consumption habits. They use devices less than Gen X or Baby Boomers, but use their cell phones and tablets much more than the older generations – with a dramatic increase of 1+ hour per day between 2016 and 2017.

Finally, Generation Z has much more restricted media habits – this is because this includes teens and tweens who are still growing up, and who are not allowed full access to televisions, computers, smartphones and tablets.

However, as time goes on, we can expect this generation to follow a pattern similar to millennials – less TV and radio consumption, and an increased emphasis on multimedia, social media, gaming and cell phone/tablet use.

Screen Time, Your Kids, And You – Understanding The Numbers

Now that you have a basic understanding of how each generation uses technology, it’s time to dive into the bulk of our article – how screen time affects your children. Let’s begin by discussing the numbers behind children and screen use.

Let’s begin with this study from the American Association of Pediatrics. [AAP] Researchers surveyed 370 parents at an urban Philadelphian hospital, to better understand the technology in use around the home, and how children interacted with it. Here are a few results from the survey:

  • Nearly every household (97%+) had at least one TV
  • 83% of households had tablets
  • 77% of households had smartphones
  • Almost all children (96.6%) used mobile devices in some way or another
  • 3/4ths of kids had their own mobile device to use
  • Most children started using mobile devices before the age of 1
  • Parents most often gave children mobile screens and devices when doing chores around the house (70%) to keep a child calm and happy (65%) and right before bed (29%)
  • By age 2, most children used at least one mobile device daily, and spent comparable time watching television
  • Most 3-4 year olds were able to use tablets and smartphones without help from a parent

We often set a time after which there is no screen time and in their case that helps them get to sleep at a reasonable hour. We don’t have cellphones at the table when we are having a meal, we didn’t give our kids cellphones until they were 14 and they complained other kids got them earlier. [Source, Credit]

Bill Gates, Founder of Microsoft

 

These results remained consistent when controls like household income, ethnicity, and other factors were accounted for. Children from every walk of life are being exposed to devices at an earlier age – and are more likely to have their own devices – than any previous generation.

This may seem innocent enough – but in fact, excessive screen time use can have negative effects, even on infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. Multiple studies [Gent University] have found that using screen excessively contributes to sedentary behavior, and could lead to an increased risk of:

  • Childhood obesity
  • Development of a sedentary lifestyle
  • Decreased reading ability
  • Poor school performance and lower grades

This is not to say that screen time or media consumption is inherently bad, or that it is somehow worse now than it has been before. Most of us probably remember being glued to the TV in our youth or even playing video games after school.

But the thing that has changed is ubiquity. It’s now much harder to escape screens. So much of our life is digital that it’s easy for screen use to get out of hand – especially if children develop poor digital habits.

Next, let’s examine how excessive screen time affects children of different ages.

How Excessive Screen Time Affects Children Of Each Age

A toddler does not have the same reaction to excessive screen time that a pre-teen does. Likewise, a teenager will not suffer the same reaction to media overconsumption that an adult would. Let’s take a deeper look now at how “screen time overdose” can affect kids of every age.

Infants and toddlers

The primary negative effects of excessive screen time for toddlers involve the development of basic language skills, social skills, and the ability to interact with others. Here are a few negative effects that too much screen time can have on an infant or toddler. [Baby Center]

  • Inhibits language development – Children cannot learn effectively from a screen until about 2 and a half years of age. Simply watching something on a screen is not an effective method of language acquisition, unless a parent actively watches with a child, and helps reinforce vocabulary.
  • Learning and reading issues – Children who use screens excessively may face issues reading and learning in the future.
  • Sleep problems – The blue light of smartphones, TVs and tablets may make it harder for an infant or toddler to fall asleep at night. This is a bad thing, since quality, restful sleep is essential for the development of the brain.
  • Social skills – Children who spend too much time watching screens may not get the social interaction they need with adults, children, and others.

Kids pickup parents’ behavior and mimic everything they do. It’s not always easy to set a good example.  Like every aspect of parenting: it’s all about finding the right balance. What about granting specified screen time (after school) and, in doing so, establishing strict limitations (during meals, in bed)?

Grade school

The effects of screen overuse on grade schoolers (K-6) are quite different from those of infants and toddlers. Here are some common issues. [Harvard] [Oxford] [Edward-Elmhurst]

  • Physical inactivity and obesity – Children who overuse screens are more likely to be physically inactive. This, in turn, leads to a higher risk of obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. This can lead to other issues like diabetes, poor self-image, and more.
  • Unhealthy habit formation – Sedentary activities like gaming, watching TV, and using smartphones are associated with unhealthy habits, such as bad sleep patterns, an increased propensity for snacking and eating poor-quality foods, and more.
  • Behavioral issues – “Overstimulation” is common among children who use smartphones and watch too much media. This can cause behavioral issues such as aggression, trouble heaving in school, and other mental health issues.

These days the children don’t play at break time anymore, they are just all in front of their smartphones and from an educational point of view that’s a problem. This is why we are banning the use of smartphones in schools. [credit]

Jean-Michel Blanquer, France's education minister

Tweens and teenagers

Teen years are when the mental and psychological effects of social media overuse, screen time overload, and media overconsumption begin to truly take shape. Here are a few of the common issues faced by tweens and teenagers. [Psycom] [APA]

  • Increased risk of mental illness – Research has shown that excessive use of social media in teenagers has a serious effect on mental illness. The risk of a teenager developing a major depressive episode jumped from 8.7% in 2005 to 11.3% in 2014 in adolescents, and from 8.8% to 9.6% in young adults. This increase was the largest among children and teens in the age range of 12-20 years. The more time kids and teenagers spend on the internet and social media, rather than seeing friends in person, reading, doing homework, or exercising, the greater their risk of developing problems such as anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems.
  • Decreased attention span – Overuse of media from an early age can culminate in a decreased attention span and trouble focusing in tweens and teenagers.
  • Viewing of inappropriate or explicit content – The pre-teen and teen years are when you should be the most concerned about your kids viewing inappropriate, violent, and sexually explicit content. Most children view media that is not appropriate for them at some point or another – but minimizing their exposure is important for proper development.

Together, but in their own worlds, at the same time. Games, sports or normal playtime inspire social interaction. Smartphone usage tends to be more on the side of passive consumption. Talk to your kids about how and what they consume. What about checking out the app-store together to find apps that are focused on creativity (music, brain games etc.)?

Screen Time Overdose Affects Kids Of All Ages

As you can see, screen time overuse has a significant effect on the mental and physical health of kids of every age. However, developing healthy screen time habits at an early age can help your kids interact with our modern world safely – and develop the proper attitude towards smartphones, social media, video games, television, and more. Let’s explore how you can develop this attitude now.

There is little or no support for the theory that digital screen use, on its own, is bad for young children’s psychological wellbeing. If anything, our findings suggest the broader family context, how parents set rules about digital screen time, and if they’re actively engaged in exploring the digital world together, are more important than the raw screen time. Future research should focus on how using digital devices with parents or care-givers and turning it into a social time can effect children’s psychological wellbeing, curiosity, and the bonds with the caregiver involved. [Bio]

Prof. Andrew Przybylski, Psychologist at Oxford

Avoiding “Screen Time Overdose” – Screen Time By Age

0 months – 2 years

Most experts recommend no screen time for children under the age of 2. [AAP] This may seem quite restrictive, but you must realize that this means unsupervised screen time.

Again, there is nothing inherently harmful about screen time, even for a very young child – as long as it is in moderation. Should you choose to do so, watching an episode of a children’s TV show with your kid is a great way to bond, and keep your child entertained.

However, the problems arise when you allow your child to interact with screens in an unlimited, unsupervised manner. That’s why the AAP recommends 0 screen time. Do your best to minimize screen time, and focus on other activities with your child – such as reading to them, playing with toys and puzzles, and other non-digital recreational activities.

2 – 5 years

The AAP recommends that screen time for children between the ages of 2-5 years be limited to about an hour per day. Despite this, kids up to the age of 8 spend an average of 2 hours and 19 minutes viewing screens. [Common Sense Media]

Exceptions can be made, but as a rule, this is a good idea. This age is when basic motoric functions, social skills, language acquisition, and even reading skills begin to develop.

Because of this, it’s very important to avoid media overexposure. Keep your child limited to about an hour of screen time per day, total. Encourage other activities, such as playing outside, drawing and painting, or even reading. It’s all about balance – the habits that your children form now may influence their behavior for the rest of their life, so you do not want them to overuse their screens.

 

6-12 years

This is when “hard and fast” rules about screen time begin to dissolve somewhat.

The average 8-12 year old spends about 4 hours using screens. [Common Sense Media] That is a bit excessive, but understandable. Partly, this is because your kids will probably be using screens and digital media at school. They may have no choice but to spend multiple hours in digital environments, and that’s not a bad thing.

From the age of 6-12 years, you should focus on allowing your children to consume digital media and use screens in a reasonable manner.

Is watching a movie and then playing a game on an iPad reasonable? If their homework is done, sure! Is chatting with friends on your cell phone reasonable? Of course!

Is sitting in front of the TV for 4 hours while neglecting friends, physical activity, and homework reasonable? No!

Later on in our guide, we’ll discuss the process of creating a screen time “schedule” in more detail. For now, just think about what is – and isn’t – reasonable when it comes to media consumption for your kid.

13+ years

By this age, teenagers are likely to have their own cell phones, laptops, TVs and tablets. Naturally, this also means that the time they spend in the digital world increases. This is also because teenagers normally must use electronics such as laptops for school.

Tweens and teenagers spend between 4.5-7 hours using screen-based media, and listening to music. [Common Sense Media]

At this point, your primary goal should be to continue to encourage smart media consumption habits. You can control how often teenagers use their devices – to an extent – but you are no longer going to be able to set and enforce rules like hourly time limits.

Instead, encourage healthy habits for screen use, and make sure that your teens are not viewing inappropriate or explicit material. Parental controls are very useful for this.

There is first evidence that family conversation at home is associated with brain development in children. It’s almost magical how parental conversation appears to influence the biological growth of the brain. [Bio]

John Gabrieli, Neuroscientist at MIT

Understanding The 4 Different Types Of Screen Time

One thing that can be confusing about the concept of “screen time” is that not all types of media consumption are exactly the same. For example, there are some activities that are totally passive, such as watching a movie.

Then, on the other end of the spectrum, you have active screen time. This could include messaging friends, or using Skype or FaceTime.

Then, in the middle, you have other screen time that is a combination of the two – gaming, reading, apps, and so on.

As a rule, you can break screen time into 4 different primary categories. Gaming, social media, watching, and reading.

Gaming

Gaming can be defined as playing games on tablets, smartphones, mobile and stationary gaming consoles, and computers. Gaming is typically somewhat interactive, especially if your child is playing a multiplayer game.

In fact, gaming can be a good way for your child to interact with their peers. Often, kids like to play online games with their real life friends – and this is a great way to encourage social interaction.

As a rule, gaming should be limited to only an hour or less per day. However, you can make exceptions if your child is playing with others, or if they have shown an ability to balance gaming with their other tasks and responsibilities.

Social media

Social media is a rather extensive category of screen time. We would include the use of all apps like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram in this category. The use of chat applications and SMS messaging is also included in social media.

Excessive social media use is a concern among tweens and teens, but social media is usually fairly harmless, as long as your children are using it to talk and connect with their real life friends

Using social media literally changes your relationship with society, with each other. It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways. God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains. The thought process that went into building Facebook was all about: ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?’ [Source, Credit]

Sean Parker, Founding president of Facebook

Watching

“Watching” includes TV, as well as other apps and streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu, YouTube, and all other video streaming services. Watching media is a very passive type of screen time and requires little attention from your children.

Reading

Reading is, as a rule, the best way for your child to spend their time on digital screens. News websites, periodicals, Wikipedia, and other informative websites and publications are included in this category. This may also include reading-focused apps designed for younger children.

Reading requires your child to engage critically with content, and helps build up their critical thinking skills, reading abilities, and more. You should encourage your child to read quite a bit – whether it’s with a physical book, an e-book, or on a smartphone/tablet.

Reading together is a great way to spark a kids’ imagination and to develop language and communication skills. Don’t have the time or energy every evening? Like with most things in parenting this is not a YES-or-NO-choice, but a question of finding the right balance for YOU and your child! How about finding reading time on the weekends?

Balance these 4 categories for a healthy approach to screen time!

Overconsumption of any particular kind of screen time is a bad thing. You should be encouraging your child to explore every aspect of the digital world. From active activities such as gaming and interacting with friends on Skype, and reading about current events, to more passive activities such as watching TV and movies. Again, it’s all about balance!

According to the research, it really comes down to how you use the technology. In general, when people spend a lot of time passively consuming information — reading but not interacting with people — they report feeling worse afterward. We know that people are concerned about how technology affects our attention spans and relationships, as well as how it affects children in the long run. We agree these are critically important questions, and we all have a lot more to learn. [Source, Credit]

David Ginsberg, Director of Research at Facebook

How Much Is Too Much? Creating A “Screen Time Schedule”

Are you thinking about creating a screen time schedule for your child or teenager? It’s not a bad idea! Here are a few different guidelines you can follow when creating and setting a screen time schedule.

One hour per day

This schedule is quite easy to understand. You limit your children to one hour of screen time per day – which they can use in any way they want: from playing on an iPad, to playing video games, or watching TV and movies. This is the best schedule for younger children – under the age of 6-8 – based on scientific research. [Learning Works For Kids]

If you have older children, this schedule may be a good idea if they need structure and routine, if they have trouble “self-limiting” their media consumption, or if they need extra time with their homework, or are struggling to live up to their full potential at school.

After school work and chores have been completed

Again, this schedule is quite simple. It’s best for older grade school kids, tweens, and even teenagers. You can simply check with your child, and make sure that all of their schoolwork and other important tasks, such as daily chores, are completed.

This reward-based system is very easy to enforce. Does your kid have something that they have to do? No screen time until it’s done! This provides motivation to children, and is a good way to encourage timely completion of homework among kids who may dislike school and homework.

If your child is a good student, but lacks some self-control, this may be the right choice. Still, you should be willing to put a limit on screen time if your child is abusing the policy – playing video games for 6 hours straight, for example. Smart parenting policies still apply!

Balanced – in their own way

This works well for teenagers and pre-teens – not so much for younger children. If your kids are able to prove that their screen time does not interfere with other activities – school, extracurriculars, sports, hanging out with friends, and so on – you can avoid any hard limits to their screen use.

If your teen or pre-teen is well-adjusted and does well in school, is trustworthy, and has plenty of outside interests – such as clubs and physical activities – in which they regularly participate, this schedule may be right for you.

As long as their use of digital media is controlled and balanced, there is no reason to stop them from using screens. However, you should still monitor their behavior on social media, and while using their phones and tablets – and ensure they are not viewing explicit or violent media.

Most experts agree that children benefit from video calls because they are socially and emotionally engaged. The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends that an adult be present at all times to explain what’s happening and to keep the calls brief.

No screen time during the week

This schedule limits recreational screen usage to weekends only. Typically, it won’t be a good approach for older tweens and teenagers who must regularly use cell phones to communicate with friends.

However, this is a good approach for kids who have addictive tendencies, and who need to do better in school. Screen time can be a huge distraction – and eliminating it completely during the school week may allow your child to focus more effectively.

If your child needs more time to complete schoolwork, must improve at school, and is reluctant to try new activities, this may be the proper approach for them.

Naturally, you will want to give them plenty of screen time on the weekends. However, this should still be within limits. No 5-hour gaming sessions, or binge-watching of entire Netflix shows!

Educational only

This schedule is somewhat unique. Children can have plenty of screen time, but only on games, tasks, shows, and other media that you deem to be “educational”. This can include screen time for school, as well as other media such as documentaries and “brain games” that are both entertaining and informative.

This approach is a good compromise that allows your child or teen to consume digital media in a healthier way. The primary drawback is that you may disagree with your child or teen about what is considered “educational.”

No screen time

We do not recommend this approach. This is only a good idea for very young children. Digital literacy is absolutely crucial in our modern world, and if your child is never exposed to digital technology at all, they will not be able to learn competently, or find good career opportunities.

There’s no screen time [in our household] whatsoever. No iPhones. No iPads. No computers. The tools that we have created today are starting to erode the social fabric of how society works. [Source, Reference]

Chamath Palihapitiya, CEO of Social Capital and former Facebook executive

10 Rules For Media Consumption At Home

If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to limiting screen time and use of media at home, you’re not alone. A full 2/3 of kids and teens report that their family has “no rules” about time spent with media or cell phone use. [AAP]

So, even if you do not restrict the use of screens by your teenagers or children, there are some good rules that you should follow in order to encourage healthy media consumption habits. Here are our top 10 recommendations:

  1. No tech while eating – This is a good rule for everyone in the family to follow. Use of screens and technology while eating – especially as a family – should not be allowed. Family mealtimes are a great time to connect and talk. Banning phones, tablets, and TV at the dinner table helps encourage healthier habits.
  2. Turn off screens when not in use – If nobody is watching the TV, it shouldn’t be on. It’s that simple. The same goes for the family computer. The more effort it takes to begin consuming media, the more likely your child or teen will be to choose a different activity.
  3. Don’t exclusively use media to calm or comfort your child – Don’t just stick your child in front of YouTube when they’re crying. It’s tempting to use screens as a solution to disconntentment – but this is a bad idea. Consider alternatives such as playing with your child, reading to them, or doing a puzzle together.
  4. Keep bedrooms screen-free – You should keep TVs, computers, tablets, and phones out of bedrooms as much as possible. Screen use before bed can interfere with sleep habits, especially among younger kids.
  5. No screens one hour before bed – Screens should be turned off before bed, to ensure proper sleep.
  6. Watch and play as a family as much as possible – If your child loves video games, play video games with them! If there is a new Netflix series that’s appropriate for the whole family, watch it together. Encouraging social media consumption is always a good idea. This also helps you understand what kind of media your child is consuming.
  7. Don’t be afraid to set limits on what they can watch or play – You are the parent. You have control. Don’t be afraid to say “no” if your child wants to watch a violent or explicit movie, or if they want to buy a violent video game. You set your own limits – don’t be afraid to enforce them.
  8. Set up a “family computer” – Children can benefit from using computers at an early age, but they should not have their own laptops until they have formed good media consumption habits. A desktop or laptop “family computer” that’s in a public area of the home, such as the den or living room, will encourage computer use, but also let you keep an eye on how your children use the internet.
  9. Encourage consumption of educational media – Whenever possible, your children should be exposed to wholesome and educational media.
  10. Be a good role model – You should follow all of the rules that you set for your children and teenagers. If you say that there are no phones allowed at the dinner table, you should be leaving your phone in your bedroom. If you limit TV consumption for your kids, you should not be watching TV for hours at a time. If you can be a good role model for your kids and prove that it’s possible to engage with screens in a healthy way, they are likely to follow in your footsteps.

Sports, gaming and musical instruments help to develop fine motoric skills and combat sedentary behavior and – above all – are just plain fun. 

Reducing Screen Time At Home – Our Top Tips

Do you need some tips on how you can reduce the amount of time that your kids or teenagers spend on their screens at home? Here are a some of our top tips.

  • Establish clear daily time limits – Without any kind of clear daily time limit, there is no way to enforce any kind of screen time use policy. Using the tips we’ve provided above, and the information the “Creating A Screen Time Schedule” section, think about what daily screen time limit makes sense for your kids.
  • Log screen time and active time – This is a great way to encourage kids to get active, and still get the screen time that they want. You can log the screen time of your child, and balance it against active time. In fact, it’s a good idea to reward your child with more screen time if they get active. One hour of sports practice, playing outside, riding their bike, or playing games with friends = one more hour of screen time.
  • Limit screen time on weekdays, but not on weekends – If your children tend to spend too much time on their screens during the week (especially if school work suffers for it) consider a system where most of their screen time can be used on weekends, but not on weekdays. You can still give them plenty of time to use social media, play games, and watch TV – but limit it to “recreation”.
  • Limit your own technology use – As we pointed out in the section above, being a good role model is very important. If you are glued to your phone or the TV whenever you’re at home, your kids will naturally follow this example. Limit your technology use – especially around your kids – and they are less likely to overuse their screens.
  • Avoid punishing kids by taking away screen time – Taking away screen time may seem like a very effective punishment. But it’s actually not a very good idea. If screen time can be taken away for misbehavior, it just seems more precious. When your kids finally get the chance to watch TV, play games, or use the internet, they will see it as even more important. In some cases, taking away screen time is an okay idea – but punishments such as grounding and “time outs” are usually equally as effective.

Parental Controls And Privacy Settings – Control The Content Your Kids Consume!

When it comes to regulating the content that your children can view and interact with in the digital world, and on the internet, remember that you are in control.

Parental controls are available for most devices, such as your phone and tablet. In addition, you can also use parental control software on your home Wi-Fi network and your television, to restrict age-inappropriate content and block violent, dangerous, or even pornographic websites.

Parental controls don’t just have to be used to block access to dangerous websites, either. Modern parental control software allows you to set hard limits to how much TV or content your child can watch – and to block certain websites or services that your child may be overusing.

Remember that you are the one who has the power to control what our child sees. It is your responsibility to keep them from interacting with unwholesome or potentially dangerous content.

Not sure where to start? Here are some helpful articles discussing the best parental control software.

What Are The Best Alternatives To Screen Time?

How can you replace screen time with more productive activities? Here are some of our tops choices for alternatives to screen time.

Reading

Reading is a great way for your child to escape the everyday and to be entertained – without the negative effects of excessive screen time.

If your child cannot read, consider reading to them from a book that’s appropriate for their age. Reading out loud is also a great recreational activity for the entire family – you can have “reading nights” where you read a book aloud. Your child’s imagination will run wild, and you’ll all have a great time together.

Learning a new craft, hobby, or skill

Crafting is a lot of fun, and can help your child build real-world skills that will stay with them for a long time to come. The same goes for picking up a new hobby.

If you are a fan of a particular hobby, consider doing it with your child. For example, if you are a hobby carpenter, you can show your child how to do basic things like use a saw, or use a wood burning tool. Obviously, you will need to make sure that you do these kinds of things safely.

You can also encourage children to find their own hobbies that they will enjoy. If your child shows interest in any particular hobby, do what you can to inspire them, especially if it is educational.

Playing outside with friends

Social interaction and physical activity are two things that are often lost when kids spend too much time on screens. Just messing around outside with friend and neighbors gives your kids both a social outlet and a way to get some exercise!

Sometimes, there’s no better way to spend the day than biking around with friends (find the right bike size for your kids), playing “tag” or exploring the woods behind the neighborhood. Help your child make connections with schoolmates and neighbors, and always encourage them to play outside when they can.

An idealized and romanticized image of “outdoor activities”? Yes, for sure! But, most of the time, kids need very little incentive to enjoy being outdoors.   Backyards, playgrounds and community spaces, that may appear boring to adults, can turn into miraculous playing fields for kids. Try to get them outdoors as often as possible.

Board games and card games

Board games and card games offer your kids a great way to interact with one another, or with friends – or even with you! There’s nothing like a family game night. Grab Monopoly or Risk, or get together and play your favorite card game.

Sports

Kids are superheroes if it comes to energy levels and endurance. Allow them to exercise minimum twice per week and you will see that they are much more relaxed, will show better concentration levels and self-confidence. For all sports, the right shoes in the right kids’ shoe size are very important.

About the calculator

At first glance, the media consumption stored in the calculator seems to be very high and most parents would estimate their kids’ media consumption to be much lower. How come? Often the “hidden consumption” like browsing on the cell phone is not factored in. We used data from sources such as CommonSense to come up with adequate data.

These values are assumed in the calculator:

QuestionAnswerTime assumed
How much time does your kid spend with media use?More than average11 hours per day
Like an average American child8 hours per day
Less than average4 hours per day
Little2 hours per day
None0 hours per day
QuestionAnswerTime assumed
How much time does your kid spend with hobbies (i.e. sport, painting)?A lot5 hours per day
More than average3 hours per day
Like an average American child2 hours per day
Little1 hours per day
None0 hours per day
QuestionAnswerTime assumed
How much time does your kid spend on social activities (i.e. friends, family)?A lot4 hours per day
More than average3 hours per day
Like an average American child2 hours per day
Little1 hours per day
None0 hours per day

Conclusion

Kids and adults are all consuming more digital media than ever before. To combat this issue, it’s important to understand it. Only by understanding the effects of “screen overdose” and digital information overload can you truly combat them.

As with everything in life, the use of digital devices is a great thing in moderation. But overusing screens can be very deleterious to the health of children – particularly infants, grade schoolers, and tweens.

We hope that you have come away from this article with a better idea of the effects that digital media has on you and your children. And we also hope that we’ve helped you come up with a strong, actionable method by which you can limit, monitor, and restrict the digital habits of your kids.

Thank you for reading, and good luck. Limiting the use of digital media in children and teens is not easy – but it is worth the effort. So, take the first step today.

Quick Links