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Nov 20

How Much ‘Screen Time’ is OK?

From BBC news article on 9th October 2012


How Much Time Should We Spend in Front of a Screen?


The amount of time children spend in front of screens has increased dramatically in recent years.  It is estimated that a child born today will spend a full year glued to a screen by the time they are seven. The average ten year old has access to five screens at home and teenagers spend an average of six hours at a screen per day.

Psychologist Aric Sigman wrote an article for MailOnline in September 2010 on the affects screen time has on the body.  Here are some of his conclusions:

MELATONIN is essential for the regulation of sleep, immune system and the onset of puberty.  A study has shown that melatonin production is 30% higher in children who do not have screen time.

CORONARY HEART DISEASE and diabetes are more likely to develop in people who have a sedentary lifestyle.

WEIGHT GAIN: after 45 minutes of screen time, subjects consumed 230 calories more than those who had no screen time.  Women are also more likely to snack later on if they were watching TV whilst they ate their meal.

DOPAMINE is a hormone involved with learning and reward.  Screen time causes the release of dopamine, which can then desensitize the brain to normal levels of dopamine, which are released in response to other stimulants.

A study at the University of Bristol (from New Scientist) showed that children who watched 2+hours of TV a day were 61% more likely to suffer from social, emotional and concentration problems (figures were similar for computer games etc).  This study also tested whether being physically active counter-balanced the effects of screen time and it found that the figures were very similar.


So, what is the advice then? The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends that children under the age of two do not have any screen time and those over two have less than two hours per day.

There are lots of activities that aid childhood development. These include peek-a-boo, pretend grocery store, following the leader, seasonal crafts, building dens, outdoor games, spelling and number games. There are many, many more. The internet (for parents!) is a great resource for researching age-appropriate games.