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Health and Fitness News

Screen Time & Your Kids

You’ve thought about turning off the television. Here's why you should.

Gone are the days of riding bikes, building forts, and playing cops and robbers. Kids now spend their time staring at screens. With televisions, computers, cell phones, tablets, and handheld devices, it's hard to escape digital media. Whether watching movies, texting friends, or playing video games, do you know how much screen time your kids are getting each day? On average, kids under the age of 6 watch two hours of television or movies a day and kids ages 6 to 18 spend five to seven hours each day on some sort of screen. Add it up and most kids burn up 35 to 49 hours in front of a screen each and every week.

While not all screen time is created equal (there are some educational and creative outlets found on screens), infants under 18 months shouldn't watch any digital media, kids ages 2 to 5 should only watch one hour a day, and screen time for older kids should be limited by parents.

If you’re not sure if you should limit your kids’ screen time, keep reading to find out why you should—ASAP!

Obesity Threat

The more hours a child spends watching television each day, the greater his or her chances of being overweight. Staring at a screen for hours on end doesn't involve much body movement. Yeah, your fingers may get a workout, but the rest of your body is usually immobile. A lack of physical activity, mindless eating in front of a screen, and the bombardment of junk food advertisements on television commercials put you and your children on the fast track to weight gain regardless of age or stage in life.

Sleep Issues

Screen time interferes with kids' ability to get a good night's rest. Beat the video game one more time, check social media, or finish a movie and before you know it bedtime is long past. Additionally, a lack of sleep puts kids at risk for attention problems, learning difficulties, behavioral issues, a weakened immune system, and daytime sleepiness.

The blue light from screens suppresses the body's ability to produce melatonin, the hormone that helps you sleep. Movies, video games, and texting stimulate your brain, so when bedtime arrives you have trouble falling asleep. Kids who text throughout the night miss out on continuous quality sleep.

Behavioral Problems

What's reality and what's fantasy? What's right and what's wrong? Constant exposure to lies and violence portrayed on media leads to confusion, fear, stress, aggression, and behavioral problems in kids. And children used to the constant energy, action, and entertainment of media have trouble focusing and sitting still at school.

Lack of Social Skills

Staring at screens and communicating through text have the potential to negatively affected young people's social skills. Because screen time typically limits face-to-face interaction, kids these days have trouble recognizing emotions, reading facial expressions, or understanding nonverbal communication. The more screen time children have the more socially awkward they become, the less eye contact they make, and the shorter their attention span to carry on an intelligent conversation.

Risky Behaviors

Movies, television shows, and the Internet open the door for exposure to risky behaviors. No child, no matter how trustworthy he or she may be, can be trusted to avoid apps, websites, and shows depicting and promoting explicit and dangerous material. Drinking, smoking, drugs, violence, and sexual activity entice young people's minds. Seeds planted at a young age can easily lead to addictions and unhealthy behaviors that affect a child for the rest of his or her life.

Fortunately, all of this can be largely avoided. Just pull the plug!