A report by the Kaiser Family Foundation has found that the average child in the United States between the ages of 8 and 18 years old spends just over 10 1/2 hours a day (10:45) using some type of entertainment media (screen time), including:
- 4:29 watching TV shows, either on a TV, cell phone, or iPod, etc.
- 2:39 listening to music
- 1:29 on a computer (online and offline)
- 1:13 playing video games
- :25 watching movies in a movie theater
Use of all of these types of media has been increasing over the past 10 years. The only thing that they found that had decreased was the amount of time kids spent reading each day, which is down to just 38 minutes a day.
Keep in mind that these times are in addition to the average half-hour a day (:33) they spend talking on their cell phones and 1 1/2 hours they spend texting.
Even when you consider that kids do many of these things together, the Kaiser Family Foundation found that the average child was spending about seven hours and 38 minutes watching TV or using their computer, cell phone, and iPod, etc.
Although that clearly sounds like too much time using these devices, that is even easier to see when you consider that kids who are heavy users of these types of entertainment media are:
- more likely to get poor grades
- less likely to get along well with their parents
- more often bored
- more likely to get into trouble a lot
- more likely to report being sad or unhappy
Schedules and Activities for Kids
If your child shouldn't be in front of the TV or computer or on his cell phone all of the time, what should he be doing?
Experts recommend that school age children and teens:
- sleep for 9 (teens) to 10 (8-12 year olds) hours a night
- exercise for at least one hour every day, including moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity each day (bike riding, brisk walking, skateboarding, etc.), muscle-strengthening physical activity (push-ups, sit-ups, swinging on playground equipment, etc.), bone-strengthening physical activity (hopping, jumping, running, etc.), and more vigorous-intensity physical activity (running, playing soccer or basketball, jumping rope, etc.) at least three days a week.
- eat a meal together with their family each night
- limit screen time (which should include time watching TV, using a computer, playing video games, or using an iPod, cell phone, or other media device) to no more than one or two hours a day
Limiting Screen Time
To help decrease your child's use of all of the different types of entertainment media (screen time), it can help to:
- remove most media devices from your child's bedroom, including their television or computer, especially if it has internet access
- take away your child's cell phone and other mobile media devices (iPod, Nintendo DS, etc.) around an age-appropriate bedtime
- make sure your kids are getting a good night's sleep and aren't staying up late talking on the phone, texting, or listening to music, etc.
- use parental controls in your TV and computer to limit when they can be turned on and used
- encourage active free play after-school with friends
- encourage your child to participate in an organized sport, hobby, or other extracurricular activities
- turn the TV off during meals and when your kids aren't watching a specific show so that the TV isn't on in the background all of the time
- set a good example by being active and limiting your own use of screen time
- avoid using extra screen time as a reward
Most importantly, don't use your child's media devices as a babysitter. Spending more time with your kids is probably the best way to get them off their computer or away from the TV.
American Academy of Pediatrics. Media Violence Policy Statement. PEDIATRICS Vol. 124 No. 5 November 2009, pp. 1495-1503.
Kaiser Family Foundation. Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Accessed January 2010.