Screen Time with Dr. Shannon Harker

We all need to be concerned about how much screen time we are getting, both as children and adults. The general recommendations are for children to get less than an hour of screen time per day and that generally, means using FaceTime or some educational application and then really monitoring use. Digital media does have negative effects. We know that it affects sleep, causes an increase in depression and obesity rates. Also, exposure to unsafe content and cyberbullying is also a huge concern that we all share with digital media and our kids. Keeping children safe when using digital media is extremely important. Have conversations with your older children about what apps they're using, what types of things they're posting and then monitor those apps and those posts to make sure they are using it appropriately.

Being upfront and honest as parents and having this conversation before they get a digital device of their own is important. For example, ask what they think is appropriate use, what they think are appropriate things to post and what should they be concerned about.

Digital media can have great positive affects as well. We can do a lot of online learning and education through digital media. We can find out news and information. We can make social contacts that may have been more difficult without social media. We can communicate with family members who don't live near us.

I think some guidelines to have a healthy relationship with digital media should include making a family plan. Have some areas that are digital free zones and avoid using digital media at mealtimes. Have a space where you can charge all of your devices that are separate from bedrooms and in a common space. Avoid using digital media before bed for at least an hour and that goes for adults and kids. Avoid easy access to screens in children's bedrooms. This is well known to interfere with sleep.

Parents should be able to lead by example with digital screen use. Model the behavior you want to see in your children. Have them take breaks get outside and play. Do some type of physical activity or activities such as puzzles or games or cook together or do some hands-on activity together. The question of when to get your child a phone is a common one. And It really has to be when you think your child is mature enough to handle discussions about safe use and to monitor their own activity.