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Should Parents Change How They Monitor Screen Time?
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For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Orange County, CA
Wednesday, October 23, 2019


New Research Just Published Says Some Forms of Screen Time Maybe More Detrimental to Academic Achievement Than Others.

An article published in the September 23rd issue of the JAMA Pediatrics shared the findings culled from an analysis of the data from 58 studies related to screen time and various measures of academic achievement. The researchers found that viewing television and playing video games appeared to have a negative effect on academic achievement. They did not find a statistically significant correlation between the total time spent on various digital media and academics. However, it should be noted that some individual studies do find a connection between total screen time and academics. Certainly, excessive use of screen time produces several problems, including academics, sleep, socialization as well as physical and mental health.

The findings of the study lend support to the need to continue to look at not only how much time children spend on the use of digital devices but what positive and negative effects various devices may have on academic achievement. This study says that perhaps television and video games should have shorter time limits than other activities. However, the bottom line of the study was that parents and educational professionals should consider supervision and reduction to improve the academic performance of children and adolescents. Also, the academic performance of adolescents appeared to be more adversely affected than children.

While monitoring and setting limits are the key, parents also need to suggest and encourage alternative uses of digital devices as well as alternative activities to replace the screen time.

Simple guidelines include no access to phones, iPads, TV, or computers during study time. The only exception is for completing online assignments. Parents need to monitor or use parental control settings to make sure their child is only using it for school assignments.

Another rule should be NO digital devices of any kind allowed in bedrooms. Kids will keep their phones or tablet in or near their bed and play games or watch YouTube in the middle of the night. Teens not only will engage in these activities but can be up all night texting or chatting.

There should be No screen time of any type at least one hour before bedtime. The blue light emitted from these devices interferes with the ability to fall asleep. Also, engaging in less activating pursuits such as reading, taking a warm bath or shower, listening to music, or just chilling are a few good alternatives.

Encourage alternatives to digital use such as physical activities, reading, playing with toys such as Legos or fantasy play with characters, and hobbies. Children and teens need to spend more time outside. There is an increase in Vitamin D deficiency in children and teens from not getting at least an hour per day of exposure to the sun. Kids should be riding bikes, skateboarding, shooting baskets, going for a walk, or a jog regularly. They should have at least one hour of physical activity every day.

Family meals should be media-free for ALL family members. This includes meals both in and out of the home. Mealtime is an excellent time for communication and connecting as a family. Eating should also be mindful, focusing on the experience and pleasure of enjoying a meal. Visit the Family Dinner Project for suggestions on meal planning and conversation starters.

I encourage to read to and/or with children. Spending time reading each day is vital for all family members. Research is starting to show that we comprehend more from reading from books on paper than books on screen. When you are reading with your children, take the time to talk about the story. What characters do they like or identify with? What are some alternative endings? How were the problems solved? Also, with teens, you may want to occasionally each read the same book and discuss your thoughts. If your teen saw a movie they liked, suggest reading the book. Take your children to the library to select books of interest.

The current recommendations for screen time from the American Academy of Pediatrics for children under 18 months it should be discouraged except for video chatting. For children 18 to 24 months, media should be high-value learning apps and should be used together to encourage learning. For older children older than 2and teens, TV time should be limited to one hour per day. This should be AFTER homework and chores are completed, and they have spent at least one hour engaging in physical activity. The family should agree to media-free times in addition to those mentioned above for meals and bedtime. Parents are directed to the AAP Health Children site for suggestions on how to create a Family Media Use Plan.

While limiting time and encouraging alternative activities, children and teens should be encouraged to use media creatively. This might include making videos, creating animation, making a digital scrapbook, learning to play a musical instrument, recording their own music, or learning to code. Apps to teach them office skills, keyboarding, researching are great (check out the Best Apps for Families from Common Sense Media. If your child is interested in learning to code, the Coder Dojo has a list of free workshops offered in local communities. You and your kids can check out subjects of interest or get help with homework on the Kahn Academy site. Check out Cool Online Museums for Curious Kids from Common Sense Media. Take music lessons online at Take Lessons.

Designate one night each week as “Family Fun Night.” You could watch a movie together, play board games, dance, sing, play interactive video games together. Also, use some of your weekends to visit a park, go for a hike or bike ride, play miniature golf, go skating or go bowling together.

To learn more about managing screen time, family organization, and building a connected and supportive family, please see Dr. Myers’s latest book, “The Well-Balanced Family: Reduce screen time and increase family fun, fitness and connectedness.”

Robert Myers, Ph.D. is a clinical child and adolescent psychologist and is Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at UC Irvine School of Medicine.  He is a regular contributor to Parenting TodayClick Here to contact Dr Myers.

News Media Interview Contact
Name: Robert Myers, PhD
Title: Child Psychologist - Parent Educator - Author
Group: Child Development Institute
Dateline: Orange, CA United States
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