Tech Overload? How much screen time is too much?

OWLconnected takes a look at what the experts have to say about this hot debate
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Until recently, the official answer from groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and Canadian Pediatric Society (CPS) was basically as little as possible!

Whether watching TV or sitting at the computer, staring too long at a screen has been tied to many different issues—from vision and sleep problems to low attention spans and more. Plus, you need real human interaction, exercise, fresh air, and time to play, read, and create…

And none of that comes from screens, right?

Changing the times for changing times

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Except that that’s not exactly true anymore. Today, we use smartphones, tablets, and computers to do everything from video chatting with family and exchanging notes with friends, to playing challenging games and even making our own movies.

Knowing that an update was needed, new guidelines were released by the AAP in October 2016, and the CPS in June 2017. Before the new guidelines, the AAP recommended that kids and teens not exceed two hours of screen time a day. But when screens are used for so many things, is it really reasonable to say that you can only spend two hours in front of a screen a day? What about using a computer in class? Or reading the news? Or keeping in touch with friends and family?

All in good (screen) time

The new guidelines aren’t about time limits. Instead, they ask that kids and teens are clear about what the screens are used for with their parents. Families discuss together what the limits should be, which sites and activities are okay, and which ones aren’t.

The guidelines also ask that screens not get in the way of the other things that make for a healthy, well-rounded life. This includes having:

  • 1 hour of physical activity a day
  • 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night
  • no devices or TVs on during meals
  • no devices in the bedroom during sleeping
  • about 1 hour away from screens before bedtime

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The guidelines are trying to make sure that screen time doesn’t take away from important things like sleep, exercise, social interaction (conversation, family games, etc.), and other activities such as reading a book.

Overall, the message seems to be: Use screens a) as long as your family agrees to how and why you’re using them, and b) as long as they’re not taking over your life.

And remember…

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Many experts still feel pretty strongly about keeping your screen time to a minimum if possible. (No, it’s not because they hate Pokémon GO.)

There are lots of studies that show that all humans (adults, too) are much better off without screens at certain times, especially before bed. Screens emit something called blue light, which fools our internal clocks into thinking that it’s still daytime. This means that the secretion of the hormone melatonin—key to sleep—is blocked. And that means you have real trouble getting a good night’s sleep (and probably even more trouble getting up for school in the morning!).

Then there are issues of safety. From suggestive advertising on TV to crime on the internet, screens can be a gateway to everything from identity theft to online predators. Scary stuff, we know! And again, it’s not just something kids worry about—ask your parents about the junk emails they get asking for their credit card number (don’t do it, Dad!). Ultimately, talking as a family about what we all see on our computer and TV screens is a wise move.


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  1. Awesome reminder!!
    Unfortunately some schools contain a lot of screen time.
    My sons have piles of homework, not sure I agree with after school math games either, but it’s homework.

    It’s frightening to add up all those hours!
    My kids don’t game M-F but still end up well over2 hrs per day due to power points, presies, research and google classroom.

    It’s sad!!

    We have no idea yet of the full effects! Children born in this environment are only in elementary school.

    We are more connected but in an empty way….

    1. Hi Brenda, thanks for commenting! The second piece in this series is actually going to be examining how tech is being used in classrooms. Look for it next week!

  2. I wish more parents would monitor the time their kids spend in front of the gagets. Kids need more of humans and the schools are not helping either because they are using more of a screen that the chalk and black board

  3. 🙂 My 2 great grandsons Aurel 9 and Sidney 7 are subscribers to your magazine and truly enjoy it No T.V.in the house but their mom has wisely guided them to screen time ,using other digital gadgets .I totally agree with your suggestions I am the great grandma, a retired teacher.I do not own a smart phone .I own a lot of printed material as my hobby is reading .I digest info better this way .I appreciate this update and will pass it along .

  4. Overall, good recommendations, though saying “Screens emit something called blue light” makes it sound like it is something mysterious or invisible. That thing “called blue light” is literally just light that’s blue. (Keep in mind that other colors of light, notably white, also contain blue light.)

  5. I think it also depends on age. Definitely, no screen time for kids under 2 at the very least. Major part of their brain develops at that time and should not be interfered with screen time.

  6. i need screens to keep life going!!!!!!!! 😀 😀 😀 😆 😆 😆 🙂 🙂 🙂 😉 😉 😉 💡 give me an i-phone 4-s!!!

  7. My mom says 2 hours. But screens are good and bad. I think screens are bad. I think that because if there were no screens in the world, then everybody would get more active and would talk to people instead of bumping into them while texting. Also if you are crossing the street while texting its very dangerous because a car can be turning while you are walking and BOOM CRASH it won’t look nice and all because you were texting. The person who invented the phone had a good reason for it, but as time passed humans started to lose awerness of the world around them.

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