Flint pediatrician: Children need healthy screen time limits

Published: Feb. 12, 2019 at 1:50 PM EST
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(02/12/19) - Four-year-old Rosie loves playing games on her tablet in her Grand Blanc home.

Her mom, Dena Moscheck, keeps a close eye on her screen time.

"We try to stick mostly to educational things. Shapes and animals and things like that."

Technology is changing the world, and how children learn and interact. But when it comes to screen time with television, video games, tablets or smartphones, how much is too much?

Moscheck is also librarian and tries to stay on top of the research.

"There's so much conflicting information. One report will say one thing, and another study will completely contradict it."

The American Heart Association says excessive screen time could put children at risk of future heart disease.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says it could also affect hands-on learning and socialization.

But now, recent research from the United Kingdom says there is not enough evidence to say screen time is directly toxic to health.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health says there is not enough research to recommend age appropriate time limits. It says parents should come up with a screen time plan that works best for their child.

Moscheck also believes planning is key.

"I always advise people who come to library that what's best for your family is going to be what's best for going forward. And just being mindful about it."

Flint pediatrician Gretchen Bakos tells parents at Hurley Children's Center there's no question about it -- too much screen time could affect your child's health.

"We know there's a strong association that has been found between increased risk of obesity, poor sleep outcomes and poor sleep performance, and also increased rates of depression, and even some cognitive development delays in younger children."

Bakos said a lot of technology is new territory for families.

"It is such a large part of our lives this day and age. And parents are looking for 'how do I help my child manage this new part that hasn't necessarily been a part of parents lives as they were growing."

Bakos believes it's important to have guidelines from the very beginning.

"I like to say no screen time before two, if it can be avoided. And that's simply because young infants and toddlers really thrive from that social interaction."

For children ages two to five, she recommends less than an hour a day.

From age 6 and up, including teenage years, she said screen time should be limited to less than two hours a day.

"Parents to think about what's best for their family, what falls in line with their family values and their parenting style," Bakos said.

She recommends a free, online tool from the American Academy of Pediatrics. It helps families come up with a customized media plan to set screen time guidelines.

To get to the website, click on Related Links next to this story.

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