Ask the Pediatrician: Should I Limit How Much Time My Kids Spend on Computers or Watching Television?

Jerome Wang, MD


Is it worth trying to limit how much time my kids spend on computers or watching TV?

Definitely – and the stakes are higher than most parents realize. Studies continue to show a relationship between high screen usage (meaning computers, TVs, tablets and cell phones) and a wide range of physical and mental health issues, from sleep issues and obesity, to attention deficit disorder, lower self-esteem and depression.

The American Academy of Pediatrics made several recommendations that parents should seriously consider:

  • Keep the TV set and internet-connected devices out of a child’s bedroom. Electronic gadgets in the bedroom not only make it almost impossible to monitor what your child or teenager is watching, but is linked to poor sleep, impaired school performance, and lower emotional health.
  • Limit the amount of total entertainment screen time to less than two hours a day. An even better rule: an hour of physical activity earns an hour of screen time, after all homework and chores are done.
  • Monitor what media your children are using, including websites and social media. You should have access to your child’s social media accounts and monitor them. Make a rule that computers can only be used in “family zones” of the house.
  • Watch TV, movies and videos with your children and teenagers. If it’s not appropriate, turn it off. Have a conversation with your children about how it fits or doesn’t fit your family’s values.
  • Establish family media rules. Two good examples? Ban all devices during meals, an essential time for families to connect and talk. And set a bedtime “curfew” for devices that requires children and teenagers to turn off phones and tablets before bedtime.

While many parents have a nagging sense they should do more to limit screen time, they also wonder if there’s enough evidence to justify yanking their children’s coveted devices—and dealing with anger and hysterics that will follow. The answer is an unequivocal yes. Enforcing these rules isn’t easy – but it is in the best interest of your child.

Dr. Jerome Wang is a pediatrician with St. Jude Heritage Medical Group.

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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.


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