As a child and young adult I always loved summer. It was a time of sun, fun, no school, and little responsibility. The temperature has been rising and the days are getting longer in New Jersey. Summer is officially just around the corner.
Recently I have been speaking a lot with parents and professionals about issues our youth and young adults face. For the past year I have researched and written a lot on screen time. As we transition into summer I think it’s a good time for us to look at screen time again.
What the World Health Organization Says
The WHO is a multinational organization. The WHO gathers doctors and policy experts from around the world. These doctors and policy experts share information on issues and then come up with solutions.
In the past year I realized that the WHO was starting to look at screen time. Initially I was shocked. Warning bells and lights started going off in my mind. The WHO, the organization which has tackled serious diseases such as polio and HIV, is now looking at screen time. Clearly doctors around the world are seriously concerned about the effect of screen time on our youth.
The WHO recently issued guidelines about safe amounts of screen time based on age. The screen time referenced in these guidelines is passive screen time. This is time where a child watches a non-educational show (think YouTube and shows that have no purpose). The WHO guidelines are provided below:
- 0-2 years old: no screen time
- 2-5 years old: less than 1 hour per day
- 6 years and older: not too much screen time
When I read these recommendations I had several thoughts.
- I need to tell my brother and sister-in-law about this immediately to protect my nieces and nephews
- I know that there are a lot of children under the age of 5 who spend more than 1 hour a day in front of screens
- What the hell does “Not too much screen time” mean?
How Much Screen Time are Youths Actually Getting
After I finished my frantic call with my brother I looked at actual screen time rates among our youth. Below are recent statistics:
- 0 – 8 years old: 50 minutes
- 8 to 12 years old: 6 hours
- 13 years old and above: 9 hours
After reading this research I went for a long walk to think. During my walk I had several thoughts and emotions.
- I am scared about babies and toddlers in front of screens but 50 minutes per day isn’t horrible
- How is it possible that children between the ages of 8 and 12 are spending 6 hours per day in front of screens
- What the hell are teenagers doing online 9 hours per day?
What it all Means
Research and my experience has shown me that screen time can be an issue. One important factor to keep in mind is that not all screen time is created equally. Many schools are moving towards being digitally integrated. It is not uncommon for students to have school-issued laptops and tablets now.
I am not anti technology. I myself spend several hours per day in front a screen researching and writing. My concern is children who spend hours per day. One of the most common statements I hear from parents is that their kids spend their entire weekends in front of their screens.
With the dismissal of school kids are going to have way less supervision than normal. With few external sources telling them to “get off their phones/laptop/tv/video games” kids are going to be in front of screens at much higher rates. I could easily see a scenario where kids spend Monday-Sunday in front of screens.
What to do
Summer should not be a season marked by a lack of supervision. I understand that with parents pulled in so many directions today it can be difficult to monitor their kids. While this isn’t easy it is very important to remain aware of what kids are doing. Children should not sleep in a room with screens. This includes phones, tablets, laptops, and televisions. Households should also have rules about what conditions must be met for screen time. These can include exercise, reading a book, doing chores, etc. I also recommend reading the other articles here on social media and video games. Feel free to reach out to us with any questions, comments, or concerns that you have. We are here to help.