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Health Column: Are screens taking over your kids’ lives?

Phil Mohler, M.D.
MOHLER’S MEDICATION MAXIMS
Free Press Health Columnist
Boy (2-3) using tablet pc
Getty Images/Fuse | Fuse

According to a recent study reported by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the average 8- to 10-year-old spends nearly eight hours a day with a variety of different media, and older children and teenagers spend more than 11 hours per day.

Presence of a TV set in a child’s bedroom increases these figures even more, and 71 percent of children and teenagers report having a TV in their bedroom. Seventy-five percent of teens own their own phones and nearly all teens are texting.

Young people now spend more time with media than they do in school — it is the leading activity for children and teenagers other than sleeping.



While experts concur that television can entertain and inform, many programs may have an undeniably negative influence on childhood behavior and values.

Children who consistently spend more than four hours per day watching TV are more likely to be overweight.



Kids who view violent acts are more likely to show aggressive behavior, but also fear that the world is scary and that something bad will happen to them.

TV characters often depict risky behaviors, such as smoking and drinking, and also reinforce gender-role and racial stereotypes.

By watching television, children often learn that sex is very casual; that it has no negative consequences, and that it’s “cool” to have sex.

The new AAP recommendations (October 2013) suggested that parents take a more active role in helping guide their children through the media maze including:

Make a media use plan to help your child learn to be selective and healthy in what they consume. Take an active role in children’s media education by co-viewing programs with them and discussing values. This includes mealtime and bedtime curfews for media devices.

Screens should be kept out of kids’ bedrooms.

Limit entertainment screen time to less than two hours per day.

For children under 2, discourage screen media exposure.

The overall goal of the new AAP guidelines is to balance between screen time and other critical aspects of life. While electronic media are important in today’s world, it is still not essential. We can all survive quite nicely without it really, so we need to determine how to fit it into our lives and our children’s lives.

Disclosure: Dr. Mohler’s left hand is hermetically sealed to his iPhone, but on a positive note, he did take the last of the Mohler TVs to the electronic recycling at the Mesa County landfill last week.

GJ Free Press health columnist Dr. Mohler has practiced family medicine in Grand Junction for 39 years. He has a particular interest in pharmaceutical education. Phil works part-time for Rocky Mountain Health Plans. Email him at pjmohler@bresnan.net.


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