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Screen Time and Its Impact on Your Child’s Well-Being

Screen time is defined as any time a child or teen spends in front of a television, computer, video game or mobile device.

The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends youth have less than two hours per day of screen time. However, most youth spend closer to eight hours each day. Increased screen time is associated with several physical health and mental health concerns, including:

  • Obesity
  • Reduced energy
  • Difficulty in school
  • Sleeping disorders
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Engaging in risky behavior
  • Lower empathy toward others

While studies do not imply that video games alone cause youth to be violent or aggressive, they certainly contribute to these areas — especially when combined with other factors such as negative peer groups, social isolation and a history of impulsive actions. And there is clear evidence that the younger the child, the greater the impression violent material has on brain development and future connections to aggressive behaviors in later years.

The Ohio Department of Education has several tips on how parents can minimize the effects of screen time on their children:

  • Designate screen-free zones in the home, especially at the dinner table and children’s bedrooms.
  • Set viewing times and take a break from the screen at least one hour before bed.
  • Use parental controls to ensure youth are only exposed to developmentally appropriate content.
  • Balance screen time with activities that require movement and exercise.
  • Log screen time versus active time on a chart or graph.
  • Encourage family movie nights and use content as “teachable moments.”
  • Provide other options for children and teens such as outdoor activities, board games, reading, hobbies, sports, art or engaging with nature.
  • Keep screen time a “non-event” — don’t use it as a reward or punishment.
  • Observe your child’s behavioral changes, especially if you sense increased aggression, agitation, selfishness or signs of depression. It could be a sign to take a break or seek additional support.