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How Much Screen Time Is Okay For Teens?
So many things have changed since technology has taken over our lives. No matter where you walk, shop, or eat, people are generally holding a cell phone or they have a tablet or laptop computer positioned so they never miss a beat.
This phenomenon has taken over everyone from teens to octogenarians. Our parents couldn’t stop their VCRs from blinking “12:00,” and today you wouldn’t be surprised to look up and see an 80-year old woman talking on her cell phone.
But how does this affect our kids? How much time should you allow your teenager to be bent over playing games on her tablet? What is an appropriate time limit for being on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or Twitter? Is two hours too little? Is six hours too much? And what is all this screen time replacing – reading, sports, volunteering, homework, physical contact, family time?
According to a study published in Psychiatric Quarterly, six hours a day is acceptable. This number replaces the two-hour daily recommendation from the American Academy for Pediatrics (AAP) in 2016. The only warning that was issued was for parents to make sure that their teen’s screen time wasn’t replacing more important things.
Additional research showed that the negative effects of screen time were in direct proportion to how much more than six hours of screen time the teens were committed to. The difference between six hours and nine hours was minimal. But as it increased, so did the results – bad grades, bad behavior, bad health.
Where will it end?
One of the big problems facing parents is that every day it seems there are new additions to social media, new games and electronics, and more and more young children joining the screen-time generation. The AAP believes that all online media is not equal. They have broken it down into four categories:
- Passive time: Watching television, listening to their favorite music, and reading
- Interaction: Searching the Internet and playing the latest games either alone or against other online gamers
- Social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, video chatting, Snapchat
- Creative content: Using the Internet to create music or art
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What can you do to monitor your children?
With the AAP acknowledging that children younger than 2 years old are beginning to seek entertainment on the Internet, you may want to establish some ground rules from the very beginning.
- Clearly define what screen time is acceptable at each age group
- Decide in advance how much time each child is allowed
- Make sure you are aware of exactly what your children are doing on the Internet. Every day another child becomes victim to a possible sexual predator misrepresenting themselves to children. Luckily. many find that they are talking to undercover cops, but children are susceptible to anyone who preys on their lack of awareness.
- Try to make good use of the time with smaller children who are more interested in learning things on the Internet.
- Make sure that sites that children should not use are blocked on their computers. One slip of the keys and your child may happen upon a site that he or she is not ready, for and you will be in uncharted territory.
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Turn it around and make it fun!
There are things you can do to limit the amount of time that your children are on the Internet without making it look like a punishment.
- Remember that the more your children are on their computers, the less active they are. Find some exercise videos that your kids might show some interest in, and get them started in staying in shape.
- Find a hobby or subject they might want to become involved in. They have more and more cooking shows on television with younger and younger children showing off their skills like a top chef. Check out some online videos and look for actual cooking classes in your area that you child can participate in — away from their computers.
- Get your child interested in music. Show them some of the great musicians online, and if they find an instrument they want to learn more about, sign them up for lessons.
- Show your kids different places around the world. Take them on a virtual tour of Europe. You can educate them, and they won’t even catch on!.
- Plan a trip to a bookstore or the library. When they find a magazine they like, sign them up for a subscription. They will look forward to receiving something addressed to them in the mail, plus it will encourage them to read something other than what is online.
- Help them with any school projects and show them how to do productive searches on the Internet.
Try to make their life off the Internet as interesting as what is on the Internet. Teach them how to have fun and how to always use their technology responsibly.