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Published on June 14, 2018

Set screen time limits for your kids

Michelle Peterson

Michelle Peterson, APNP

How much is too much screen time for kids? With video games, computers, televisions, tablets, telephones and many more recreational screens available today, it may seem there's little to do that's screen-free. The good news is that's not true; there are countless activities that encourage creativity, promote good physical health, and contribute to more social and happy kids, no matter what their age.

"The newest guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend no screen time for children age two and under," explains Michelle Peterson, APNP. "Early childhood is a critical time for brain development, and excessive screen time can negatively impact a child's neurological and emotional progress."

Peterson continues, "It's crucial for young children to watch and listen to others; to play alone and with others; to use their own natural creativity; and in general, to experience the world as much as possible."

For children two and older, the AAP recommends maximum screen time of 1-2 hours daily. More can lead to obesity, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, depression, and depending on games played, aggressive behavior.

"One way to help kids is to create a list of ways they can spend their time," suggests Peterson. She proposes using the following categories:

  1. Indoor activities for a child alone
  2. Indoor activities for a child with others
  3. Outdoor activities for a child alone
  4. Outdoor activities for a child with others

Art projects, biking, music, board games, hiking, fort building, soccer and other sports, plays/puppet shows, reading and dolls/action figures are possibilities to consider. To promote their best possible physical health, activities that keep kids moving should be a priority. And because quality one-on-one time between parents and kids is so important, take the opportunity to join in on some activities.

When children grow up with limits on screen time, it shows.

"The level of engagement between the parent and the child is the difference I see," Peterson notes. "I see more face-to-face interaction and eye contact. There appears to be a stronger connection between the parent and the child."

As with all behavior we'd like to see in our kids, it's important to set a good example. To reduce screen time for your whole family, consider:

  • Establishing a "no screen zone" during meals
  • Setting "screen free" days of the week
  • Keeping televisions in family areas only, and not in bedrooms

Your child's annual wellness exam is an excellent time to discuss screen time or other topics. For an appointment with Michelle Peterson, APNP or a fellow provider in Boscobel, Fennimore or Muscoda, please call Gundersen Boscobel Area Hospital and Clinics at (608) 375-4144. www.gundersenhealth.org/boscobel

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