Screen Time!

What comes to mind when you think 'screen time?' I have to admit that for me, the phrase conjures up 15 minutes of fame and how long someone might remain prominent on the various media screens we are exposed to, but this week, as Rick and I discuss on PodMed, the American Academy of Pediatrics reverses that idea with recommendations for screen time for kids, that is, how much time should your children spend in front of a screen, consuming media of various types? These are published in Pediatrics.

Rick starts this segment on PodMed with querying me on how long the average 8 to 10 year old in the United States spends in front of a screen of some type, including a computer, television, smart phone, or any permutation thereof. My guess was five hours a day, but the startling figure is 8 hours per day, with teenagers spending greater than 11 hours each day in these activities.  That's even more time than they spend sleeping or at least equal to that. Such behavior is bolstered by the fact that 71% of children queried reported having a television in their bedroom, which by itself accounted for 4 hours of screen time per day. An impressive 84% of children and teenagers report access to the Internet, and 75% own a cell phone.  Disconcertingly, 2/3 of these kids report that their parents have no rules whatsoever about use of these media.  No surprise then, that recent high profile cases of web-based bullying and subsequent suicide in adolescents were not fully appreciated by parents.

Against this dire backdrop, what does the academy propose? Clearly, pediatricians and primary care physicians need to get into the act, although I would add parenthetically amongst all the other screens we keep imploring them to do.  Two questions are appropriate: How much recreational screen time does your child consume each day? and is there a television or Internet connected device in your child's bedroom? Based on the answers, docs can educate parents on the risks for obesity, substance abuse and exposure to sexually explicit material when such media can be accessed in private, and make recommendations regarding appropriate amounts of screen time relative to the age of the child. Rick opines in the podcast that he agrees with the academy in that parents should consider TV viewing with their offspring as an opportunity to share family values and not allow televisions in children's bedrooms, and I agree. Such sedentary activities should be limited, in the opinion of the academy, to less than 1-2 hours per day, and here's something that amuses me: no screen time at all for those younger than 2!  Wow, I must admit it never even occurred to me that a child younger than that would enjoy such activity! or lack thereof.

Clearly, with regard to our connected lives and media dependence, this is going to be a tough sell, but likely to reap benefits for all concerned. Other topics this week include HIV and risk of meningitis in Annals of Internal Medicine, blood pressure medications in folks with diabetes in the BMJ, and steam, NSAIDs and respiratory infections in the same journal.  Until next week, y'all live well.

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Screen Time! | jhublogs
November 12, 2013 at 1:02 pm

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