House Call: Screen Time

Published: Jun. 26, 2020 at 6:19 PM EDT
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It is summer time and you are probably asking yourself how you get your kids to reduce screen time and move more. Joining us for this week’s House Call is Dr. Elani Kitsos, pediatrician with Bridgeport Pediatrics.

1). What are some helpful tips for parents to help their children spend less time in front of the TV, computer, smart phone, or video games and more time being active?

For many of us, limiting our computer use and getting away from all screens can be a challenge. “Screen time” means television screens, computer monitors, and even the handheld devices we use for checking email, listening to music, watching TV, and playing video games on the go.

First, track your family’s screen time by keeping a daily log. Please call Kitsos’ office and she will send you a free tracker.

Screen time is any seated time in front of:

o The TV or a DVD

o Video games

o Smart phones and other hand-held video devices.

o Computer or Internet (except for schoolwork).

o You should at the same time track your family’s physical activity. With all the great parks and trails in region, there is no excuse for not enjoying the natural beauty of North Central West Virginia, just remember to practice social distancing and proper hand washing.

2). How much is too much?

Health experts recommend that screen time at home should be limited to two hours or less per day. The time we spend in front of the screen, unless it is work or homework- related, could be better spent being more physically active.

As a parent or caregiver, you can set a good example for your kids and set rules that limit their computer time, TV watching, and video game playing to reduce how much time they spend in front of a screen. Research by the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation shows that setting rules about media use is hard for many parents.

· 28% of parents set TV-watching rules

· 30% of parents set rules about video game use

· 36% of parents set rules about computer use

However, the same study also showed that when parents set any media rules, children’s media use is almost three hours lower per day.

3). Do West Virginian’s spend much time in front of a screen?

(Say anchor’s name), let me provide you with a statistic that only deals with television screen time, but it will amaze you. West Virginians watch more daily television than residents of any other state. In fact, West Virginia clocks an average of four hours and 30 minutes a day watching television. That is more than double the amount recommended, which is two hours. It is also significantly higher the state that ranks second highest, Delaware, at 3 hours and 47 minutes. This statistic only includes television, not other screen time devices. Therefore, the results are most likely worse.


4). Is there an easy fix for parents concerning the amount of screen time their children are viewing?

Absolutely, make mealtime family time.

· Turn off the TV, computer, smart phone, or video games during family meals. (You could talk about a new physical activity to try!)

· Try to have family meals at least two or three times a week. Families who eat together tend to eat healthier.

In addition, the link between screen time and food choices is important:

· Many ads are for foods like sugar-sweetened cereal, candy, and fast food.

· Ads may use cartoon or movie characters to make those foods look “fun” or “exciting”.

· Children who spend a lot of time with watching television or screen time on a computer, smart phone, or video game, may make less healthy food choices.

· Children who spend a lot of time on these devices are living a sedentary lifestyle, which leads to possible health issues down the road.

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