Do your kids spend too much time in front of a screen?


Fri November 25, 2016 11:53am

Screen time — the time spent in front of smartphones, computers, tablets and television — is a hot topic of discussion among many families today. Let’s face it, we are surrounded by media and technology, especially our children.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents help their children develop healthy media habits as early as possible. Those plans should consider the child’s age, health, personality and developmental state.
“Media should in no way replace time spent interacting with others and traditional play,” said Annemarie Selaya, M.D., a pediatrician at Scripps Coastal Medical Center Hillcrest and medical staff member at Scripps Mercy Hospital. “At the same time it is important to identify the many positives that can be derived from responsible media use.”
Parents, working closely with their pediatricians, can develop plans that promote safe and healthy media use for their children. Here are some tips:
Go digital together
Join your kids in digital spaces as another way to spend time together. Play video games with your kids. Ask your teens to walk you through their online world.
Digital-free zones at home “Even the most responsible media use can’t substitute for traditional play and interaction between people,” Dr. Selaya said. “Electronics can become addicting for some children, and some can become moody and withdrawn with excessive use. It is extremely helpful for families to establish baseline limits on media use and make electronics off limits at certain times, such as during meals.”
Be picky
Not all games and apps are created equal, even if they’re branded “educational.” Skyping with grandma for 20 minutes isn’t the same as zoning out with Minecraft or YouTube smosh clips for 20 minutes. Quality counts. The more interaction, the more learning. Passively watching videos doesn’t help toddlers acquire language, for instance.
Not sure what’s OK? The parent-friendly nonprofit Common Sense Media (, reviews kids’ apps, games and programs for appropriateness.
Communicate boundaries
Social media can help teens develop identity, which means regular online interaction with peers is fine. But if your teen is sexting or posting violent content, that’s a serious red flag. Don’t be afraid to assess the situation for other risk factors.
Prepare for mistakes
Your kids are going to make mistakes as digital citizens. It happens to adults also. Use these mistakes as teachable moments so that they can learn and grow. “The best way to prevent teens from engaging in inappropriate social media behaviors is to maintain good communication with them and teach proper online etiquette,” Dr. Selaya said. “Parents need to be open-minded and learn more about the online world.”
Walk the walk
Reserve part of your own day for device-free experiences and see how fast you become a role model for healthy device use for your children. Remember the importance of offering your kids the gift of your full attention.
Face-to-face interaction Children must develop the skills to entertain themselves without electronics and must be given the opportunity to interact with others. Physical activity and face-to-face social interaction remain crucial to good health and children’s development.
“These are basic life skills that will remain important no matter how widespread electronics become. Kids should have the chance to create things without being guided by electronics; no app can replace blocks and books,” Dr. Selaya said.
“To Your Health” is brought to you by the physicians and staff of Scripps. For more info, visit or call (858) 914-2297.