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Ask Dr. Meg: What About Screen Time?

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Dr. Meg Meeker

Dr. Meg,

I am a Biblical counselor in Raleigh, NC. I have over 30 years experience but I need some help.

I have parents that are concerned about “screen time” of children from age of 9 months to 18 years of age. What information do you have on that topic? One such mother has a 20 month old daughter and mom works from home so she uses the TV movies to occupy her daughter’s time. At meal time if the child gets fussy mom will put her cell phone on the table and the child watches quietly. Mom has been doing this since the child was 5 months old.

This child looks like she is frozen to the screen. She is very resistant to any physical touch unless she is in the mood for it. She will often not respond to the grandparent or others in the family. One grandparent is concerned that mom is conditioning this child for anti social issues. What do you have on screen time?

Tech Trouble

Dear Tech Trouble-

I just finished recording a wonderful radio show with Dr Josh Straub on this topic. Keep an eye out for it on the Family Talk website. Josh knows a lot of the research on screen time and children.

You are right on. Screen time for children can be very harmful. First, even at young ages, children can become hooked. I don’t want to say addicted, but they can become mesmerized and have a hard time giving it up. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children younger than 2 years old.

Using screens to occupy a child’s time every once in a while is fine. Children on long car trips or sitting in a waiting room for an hour need help. Should the screen be the go-to device to occupy time? No, but that’s what most millennial parents have learned to do because it’s handy.

No good psychologist or physician would say that watching television or Ipads is good for kids. The problem is, those things are here to stay so I try to help parents learn to use them sparingly and wisely. Allowing a child to watch a screen for half an hour here or there is fine but if any young child is watching more than one half to one hour per day, that’s too much. I fear that their social skills, brain development and intellectual curiosity will be dulled. Watch for studies over the next years- they will reveal these things.

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