Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, Twitch – the social media and gaming rabbit holes available to today’s teens are seemingly endless, and so can be the harmful effects of too much screen time. As society emerges from COVID, which did require more screen time than normal for many families, it’s important to reevaluate how frequently your kids are devoting to the screen.
How Much “Screen Time” is Too Much?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours of screen time per day for children and teenagers. This is a stark contrast to how much time kids are actually spending interacting with smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles, TVs and computers. Children 8 – 12 actually average four to six hours of screen time per day while teens can spend up to nine hours per day, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
The Harmful Effects of Screen Time
Web portals, social media channels and search engines can be a gateway to unhealthy and unsafe content potentially exposing young minds to violence, cyberbullying, sexual content and misinformation. Additionally, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry highlights the following harmful effects of too much screen time:
- Lower quality of sleep
- Lower grades in school and less engagement with schoolwork
- Reading fewer books
- Spending less time with family and friends
- Limited physical activity and time outside
- Weight problems
- Mood swings
- Poor self-image and body image issues
- Fear of missing out
- Less time learning other ways to be mindful, relax and have fun
How to Reduce Screen Time and Establish Healthy Habits?
It’s important to create a screen time plan for your children, limiting use to no more than two hours per day and at appropriate times. Lucky for us, this is easy to do in the Roaring Fork Valley with so many opportunities for healthy activities.
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Here are some steps you and your family can take to help regulate and reduce how much time your kids spend with screens and improve their mental health in the process:
- Encourage healthy activities and habits and personal interests instead of screen time.
- Get outside! Instead of defaulting to screen time, go for an after-dinner family walk, hike or bike ride.
- Present your kids with opportunities to join a team sport. If they’re not interested in more traditional high school sports, Aspen offers plenty of alternatives such as ski and freeride teams, mountain bike programs, climbing clubs and triathlons.
- Replace digital gaming with a teen fitness program.
- Learn about and activate parental controls and screen time limits for devices.
- Educate yourself about the programs, platforms and games your children are using to make sure they’re age-appropriate.
- Lead by example – as hard as it can be to disengage from the phone, it makes it easy to ask your kids to do the same thing.
- Involve your children in planning and cooking healthy family meals. Start here with our easy healthy soup recipes!
- Prohibit screens during meals and limit screen time 30 – 60 minutes before bed.
Now is the time to put the screen down and take a moment to look around and reconnect with family, friends, hobbies, books and your family’s favorite aspects of the Roaring Fork Valley. If you feel you or your teen might be suffering from a “phone addiction” or any form of seasonal depression, don’t be afraid to reach out to your mental healthcare provider to express your mental health concerns.