How to Turn Your Kid’s Excessive ‘Screen-Time’ Into a Positive

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

The number of American children meeting the recommended amount screen-time is startlingly low. A report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) indicates that only about one-quarter (27 percent) of 12 to 15 year olds are spending 2 hours or less in front of a television screen or computer monitor on a daily basis. Two hours is the maximum screen-time given in guidelines by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and about three-quarters of youths are exceeding that limit.

The health concerns related to this behavior are not solely weight-related. Studies specific to adolescents have found that excessive amounts of screen-time are linked to higher blood pressure, and elevated serum cholesterol levels. This is concerning since the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute explains that blood pressure tends to rise with age. If current adolescents are starting at a higher level than previous generations, they are opening themselves to an even greater risk of heart disease later in life.

The report used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and the NHANES National Youth Fitness Survey, taken in 2012. Dr. Dimitri Christakis, co-author of the AAP’s guidelines, a Professor at the University of Washington, and director of the university’s Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development, outlined the limits of the data to paint an accurate picture to Today. “I think there are problems with the new report,” Christakis stated, adding “it probably overestimates and underestimates screen-time since it didn’t include tablets and smartphones, which children are using more and more.” This doesn’t have to be unhealthy, and his co-author agrees.

Provided that the devices are being used constructively–as an education tool, for example–it can benefit the user. “I like the concept of the ‘healthy media diet,’” Dr. Marjorie Hogan, a pediatrician, told HealthDay. “It’s all about moderation and choosing wisely.” Television programs, and the Internet provide incredible resources for learning and expanding horizons, but even with the potential benefits, Hogan did say that the findings are concerning.