Screen Time Recommendations Based on Research Review
Pediatricians have for decades advised concerned parents to use screen time wisely, especially for young children. A comprehensive research review of this dilemma appeared in the July 2020 issue of JAMA Pediatrics. Researchers from the University of Calgary Alberta, Canada, and Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute analyzed 42 of the best studies totaling nearly 20,000 kids under twelve years of age. Their main conclusions were:
- The quality of screen time is more significant than the quantity.
- “Co-viewing” and “education screen time” is best. This means when kids interact with parents, teachers, or friends during screen viewing these partnerships were usually associated with better language skills in the screen viewers.
- On the contrary, low-quality screen time was associated with lower language skills, especially in younger children.
These screen time findings were consistent with the current American Academy of Pediatric guidelines of “no screen time under the age of 18 months.”
Additional Concerns to Consider
Besides the not-surprising results of these studies, here are two screen time recommendations to keep the mind and body healthy.
- More Screen Time Equals Less Movement. Excessive screen time means excessive sitting time, just the opposite of what growing children need. Kids are meant to move. Movement increases blood flow to the body and brain when the body and brain are growing the fastest. Better blood flow, a better body, and brain. It’s as logical as that!
- Out of Sight, Out of Mind. In a book I highly advise reading, Brain Spanners, by Dr. Bryce Wylde, my friend adds another caveat about the smart use of cellphones while working or learning. He cites a study from the University of Texas showing that just having your phone on the desk or within sight while you’re working is a distraction, mainly because you’re subconsciously thinking about things that could be going on in your phone messages rather than focusing on the task you are working on. The take-home message is: when you’re really trying to learn, especially for school-age children, put their screens in another room and turn them off.
Dr. Sears, or Dr. Bill as his “little patients” call him, has been advising busy parents on how to raise healthier families for over 40 years. He received his medical training at Harvard Medical School’s Children’s Hospital in Boston and The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, the world’s largest children’s hospital, where he was associate ward chief of the newborn intensive care unit before serving as the chief of pediatrics at Toronto Western Hospital, a teaching hospital of the University of Toronto. He has served as a professor of pediatrics at the University of Toronto, University of South Carolina, University of Southern California School of Medicine, and University of California: Irvine. As a father of 8 children, he coached Little League sports for 20 years, and together with his wife Martha has written more than 40 best-selling books and countless articles on nutrition, parenting, and healthy aging. He serves as a health consultant for magazines, TV, radio and other media, and his AskDrSears.com website is one of the most popular health and parenting sites. Dr. Sears has appeared on over 100 television programs, including 20/20, Good Morning America, Oprah, Today, The View, and Dr. Phil, and was featured on the cover of TIME Magazine in May 2012. He is noted for his science-made-simple-and-fun approach to family health.