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Experts: children have too much screen time – Ogden Clinic provided source, Standard-Examiner 8/4/2015

OGDEN - No more than two hours a day.

That’s how much screen time children should have, according to The American Academy of Pediatrics. And children under the age of two shouldn’t have any screen time at all.

But according to local and national doctors, these recommendations are not being followed. As Ogden Clinic pediatrician Dr. John Allred said, “Gadgets hungrily gnaw at children like a ravenous hyena.”

A recent study from the Kaiser Family Foundation, published in The Journal of Pediatrics, shows the average eight to 10 year-old spends about eight hours a day with a variety of different media, from cell phones and iPads to television and computers. In addition, teenagers between the age of 13 and 17 send an average of 3,364 texts per month.

“Young people now spend more time with media than they do in school. It is the leading activity for children and teenagers other than sleeping,” the study states.

Dr. Jason Hoagland, a pediatrician and president of the medical staff at Tanner Clinic, said when kids are on their phones they are not present where they are.

“They are not experiencing what is happening around them and are missing

out on relationships and growth that is happening around them,” he said. “It is interesting seeing teens at parties, friends all around them, and they are texting people that are not there instead of enjoying the people there with them.”

By doing this, Hoagland said kids miss out on the social skills that will benefit them then and later in life.

“I remember going to exercise at a gym near where I live. I saw four members of the same high school football team walk in together, sit in four corners of the room and text while exercising by themselves and then walk out together an hour later, never having spoken to one another,” Hoagland said. “These same youth struggle when they go off to college and church missions due to their cell phone addictions, unable to manage real life face to face conversations and relationships. They are unprepared for the emotional

rigors of problem-solving and real life relationships as they lack the social skills that were thwarted by time spent on virtual relationships and screen time.”

Allred agrees and said he cringes and truly criticizes, and feels it almost immoral to see 25 year-old young men wasting away on an old springy couch , Dr. Pepper in hand, playing some video game for over 12 hours without blinking.

“I still criticize those young men who don’t seek gainful employment and education. I harshly condemn a young person who fritters his life away with no direction other than reaching the next level of today’s most popular Nintendo game,” Allred said. “From my opinion, this is a true waste of time and talent and is sapping the life from our youth.”

Allred said when he was a kid he experienced good old-fashioned outdoor play and little or no time glued to the TV.

“I couldn’t conceive of staying indoors during the summer,” he said.

Instead, he said, he played in the park, swam in the pool at Rainbow Gardens and even in a few murky ponds, jumped on the trampoline, played tennis, inner-tubed down the Ogden River, rode his bicycle, played volleyball, football, baseball and basketball and played with the neighborhood kids in the backyard.

“So, it is with that frame of reference I look at the younger generation with a critical eye,” he said. “But maybe my way is the old way. Maybe kids don’t want to go tubing down the Ogden River when they can shoot zombies and watch the blood splatter from their brain.”

Not only is excessive screen time a waste, it’s also contributing to many other problems. The American Academy of Pediatrics states media use has been associated with obesity, sleep issues, aggressive behaviors, and attention issues in preschool and school-aged children.

“Decreased activity is contributing to childhood obesity,” Hoagland said. “With an average of 42 hours a week spent watching TV and on screen time, this is a major contributor to childhood obesity. Our Davis County families are smart and know that excessive screen time hurts their children physically and emotionally.”

Also, Hoagland said, studies show an increased risk for Attention Deficit Disorder for children regularly exposed to screen time at a too early age. These children have an increased need for stimulation to stay interested in an activity due to the expectation that life moves as rapidly as television and

anything less is boring. With increased screen time, young children miss out on the conversations in the home that are the true backbone of brain development.

Allred said The American Academy of Pediatrics states though some media industry execs claim educational media programs are meant to be watched by both the parent and child to facilitate social interactions and a learning process, this is not clear whether this happens. In fact, it seems audible TV is associated with decreased parent-child interactions. Parents report they often avoid co-viewing because their child’s media time provided an opportunity for them to do other things.

Both physicians said while they do not like the idea of children owning smart phones and spending too much time on multiple screens, they know the problem isn’t going away anytime soon.

Hoagland said although AAP allows for up to two hours a day for screen time, he recommends no more than one hour daily during school.

“Even then, I recommend no screen time Monday through Thursday so there is no competition with school work and active play with more screen time on the weekend when they can play for longer periods,” he said. “As I mentioned, screen time replaces something else--active play, problem-solving play, conversations in the home, relationships with siblings and friends and parents.

All of these are better for the child than screen time.”

If you are going to allow your kids screen time, both physicians recommend that parents talk with their kids about the content and help them choose appropriate apps, games and TV shows.

“You cannot make enough rules to cover all the contingencies and circumstances governing technology in your child’s life,” Hoagland said. “Teach correct principles about safety and content and why and provide access at an appropriate age. Make sure you have all filters in place for Netflix and streaming services or your kids will be into all kinds of material that will be hard for them to understand and will be damaging psychologically and emotionally.”

And another piece of advice: set an example and monitor your own screen time. A study at Boston Medical University found parents are often just as guilty of spending excess time on their smartphones and computers, causing anger and frustration in their children.