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Updates on Recommended Screen Time for Children

From Janice Emery, University of Missouri Extension, Regional Youth Development Specialist

HOUSTON, Mo. –– In recent years, parents have heard how terrible screen time is for children.  And seemingly rightfully so, as vast research has been completed and linked increased screen time to obesity, psychological issues, sleep disturbances, and behavioral issues.  However, many parents found the recommended limits set for screen time in our technology-driven society were very hard to follow.

“Our society is using more and more technology every day, so rather than resist these changes when it comes to children, it is better to find a healthy way to embrace it,” says Janice Emery, Regional Youth Development Specialist with the University of Missouri Extension.  Last fall, the American Academy of Pediatrics revised their recommen-dations on screen time for children.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using the Family Media Use Plan Tool, and recommends tailoring screen time to each individual family’s needs.  According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, for school-aged children and adolescents, the idea is to balance media use with other healthy behaviors.  “Technology, like anything else, should be used in moderation.  Unplugged playtime is still important, especially for very young children, as play is how they learn and develop properly.” Emery says.

“Even with broader screen time limits, screen-free zones are still important.  For example, preserve family mealtime or morning commutes to school to talk and interact as a family rather than looking at a screen,” Emery says.  Doing this keeps screen time reasonable and encourages healthier eating habits and healthier sleep.

“It is also important to note that parenting itself has not changed.  Parents still need to be mindful of what their children are doing, who they are interacting with, and what content is being used regardless of their age.  Screen time creates another environment, albeit virtual, but just like any other environment, it can have positive or negative consequences.  In addition, do not be fooled just because certain content has labeled itself educational.  Try using the Common Sense Media Organization, as they review age appropriate games and programs,” Emery says.

4-H integrates technology in many different projects.  4-Her’s can learn to use technology responsibly while forming STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Match) skills in projects like Lego Robotics, or, for example, using technology to keep track of their animal’s weight and feed costs in a livestock project.  4-H offers parents and children opportunities to bond, share interests, and learn new skills and is a way for families to spend unplugged or educationally approved screen time together.  4-H’ers are also more likely to grow up to be civilly responsible adults.  For more information on joining 4-H, contact Regional Youth Development Specialist, Janice Emery, with the University of Missouri Extension at 417-967-4545.