Today’s summer vacation looks a lot different from the summer breaks our parents and grandparents enjoyed. It was once a time of long bike rides, popsicles on a hot day, hanging out at the pool, and of course, sleeping in. Today, there are a lot more options for kids that don’t even require them to get out of bed.

Social media, texting, YouTube, and video games, interaction and entertainment are right at their fingertips. That can be a problem.

Some very real dangers come from excessive screen time. Here’s what you need to know:

Our Kids are Screen Obsessed

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), U.S. children from 8 to 12 years old spend an average of 4 to 6 hours a day gaming, watching videos, social media, and more while teens spend as many as 9 hours a day on screens.

Not all screen use is bad, it is great for learning and entertainment, but overuse can lead to some serious problems. If no one is monitoring what the child consumes during screen time, it can have even worse consequences.

There are so many bad things that unsupervised children can be exposed to online. We often think of the “big stuff” like violence, stunts, and challenges that encourage unsafe behavior, predators, risk-taking behaviors, and sexual content. However, there are other dangers hidden in the so-called “child-friendly” videos and games, such as:

  • Negative stereotypes
  • Misleading or inaccurate information
  • Substance use
  • Cyberbullies
  • Role models that encourage inappropriate behavior such as disrespecting others, mocking, and promoting unhealthy body image

These things have no place in a child’s life, but many children are exposed to them from the moment they log on to a device.

Dangers of Excessive Screen Time

Studies have shown that children who spend too much time on devices can face some serious consequences physically, mentally, and socially. These can include:

  • Weight fluctuations
  • Sleep issues
  • Mood problems
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Poor school performance and lower grades
  • Poor social skills
  • Less time reading
  • Impaired self-image
  • Less time spent with family and friends
  • Addictive behaviors (especially to devices)
  • Lack of physical activity
  • ADHD/ADD-type symptoms
  • Fear of missing out
  • Not enough outdoor activity
  • Memory problems
  • Poor emotional control
  • Inability to entertain themselves
  • Inability to function without constant stimulation
  • Lack of empathy

There are also physical problems that can arise such as headaches, eye problems, vision problems, and “text neck.” Limiting screen time is extremely beneficial for raising healthy, well-adjusted kids.

Tips for Limiting Screen Time

The AACAP has provided guidelines for children according to their age.

  • Up to 18 months – Only use screens for video chatting while accompanied by an adult
  • 18 to 24 months – Limit screen time to viewing educational programming
  • 2 years to 5 years – Non-educational screen time constrained to 1 hour per weekday and 3 hours on weekend days
  • 6 years and older – Limit activities that include screens and encourage healthy habits that include balancing screen time and non-screen activities

Other tips for reducing screen time include:

  • Require that all screens (including parents’) are turned off during family meals and outings
  • Schedule weekly family fun nights where devices are not allowed
  • Use parental controls
  • Avoid using devices as babysitters, pacifiers, rewards, or to stop bad behavior
  • Find healthy ways to reward children for reading a book, engaging in an outdoor activity, drawing a picture, or anything that isn’t related to a screen
  • Turn off all screens and put the devices away about an hour before bedtime
  • Spend time talking to your children, face to face, discussing their dreams for the future, and how they are doing in school, go deep!

Getting your kids off screens and limiting their time on them may be tough at first, but they will adjust and be all the better for it.

If you or your child are experiencing any effects of excessive screen time or are having trouble breaking the habit, Sandstone Center for Neurofeedback can help. Call today or go online to learn more and help your family discover a full life with less screen time.

*Sandstone Center for Neurofeedback does not diagnose medical conditions. Sandstone Center for Neurofeedback is a nonmedical, medication-free program for children and adults who struggle with symptoms related to mental health.