A Tool for Evaluating Your Children’s Screen Time

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A child looking at a tablet.

We hear a lot about the hazard of excessive screen these days. For ourselves. For our kids.

The American Academy of Pediatrics refined its recommendations for children’s screen time last October. For babies below the age of 18 months, the AAP suggests no screens at all. Between that milestone and 2 years, screens can be introduced. Kids between the ages of 2 and 5 should get no more than an hour of “high quality” programming, and even then with their parents engaged and watching with them.

Over that age, however, the AAP’s recommendations get a bit more subjective, shifting from a quantitative measure to a more qualitative assessment: “For children ages 6 and older, place consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health.”

As parents, we may struggle a bit with older kids to define when screen time crosses the threshold into an unhealthy or compulsive behavior. It’s not merely a matter of monitoring hours spent with various screens (TV, computers, smartphones, tablets, video games), but assessing how that interaction is affecting them as well.

Dr. David Greenfield is the founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction (virtual-addiction.com) and an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. His site offers a variety of simple, quick “Addiction Tests” that give a baseline assessment regarding unhealthy online engagement.

One of those tests is titled, “Child Technology Test: Are Your Children Too Connected?” The test’s 12 yes-no questions—such as, “Do you find your child spending more and more time online or on their digital devices (computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone) than they seem to realize?”—yield a score and a more concrete picture of just how enmeshed in digital technology your child may or may not be. (Other tests on the site can similarly help adults assess their Internet habits in general, as well as more specific self-assessments with regard to pornography and your degree of digital distraction.)

Screens are everywhere these days. And resources like this can help give us a more objective sense of how we and our kids are interacting with them.

For more on establishing healthy boundaries in this area, you can also check out Focus on the Family’s Daily Broadcast with guests Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane, “Helping Kids Relate in a Screen-Driven World.

Who wrote this?

Adam R. Holz is a senior associate editor for Plugged In. He also writes for Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse magazine and has been a Boundless contributor. In his free time (which there is sometimes precious little of) Adam enjoys playing guitar and constructing LEGO kits with his son. Adam and his wife, Jennifer, are the proud parents, in fact, of three children, one boy and two girls.

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Rebecca Carter 3 months ago
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