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Behavior, Parenting and Discipline > Less Screen Time

Less Screen Time

Companies work closely with child psychologists to develop ad campaigns that are irresistible to children. Screens allow total strangers to convince kids that their toys and products are essential to their happiness. They encourage kids to nag parents to buy products. One in 3 trips to a fast food restaurant comes about through nagging! On average kids report nagging 7-12 times (up to 50 times!) for something advertised to them.

Less Screen Time = Less Marketing to Kids = Less Family Stress = Less Materialism

On average kids see 25,000 commercials on TV per year! This does not include:

  • Brand licensing: media characters appear on clothing, toys, food, or in packaging designed to entice kids to want a particular product.
  • Embedded advertising: products are interwoven into media programs as props or part of a plot.
  • Advergaming: games built around brands that kids spend lots of time interacting with (like candy or other junk food).
  • Behavioral targeting: companies track children's online behavior in order to better understand what products to market to them.

Commercialism is a factor in many problems facing children today:

  • Childhood obesity: Children consume more than 167 more calories for every hour of TV they watch. One 30 second commercial can influence the food preferences of children as young as 2 years. Not to mention that they are sitting watching tv... not involved in active play!
  • Eating disorders: When television was introduced to Fiji, within a few months there was an epidemic of eating disorders among girls because the ultra-skinny women on TV replaced the indigenous standards of beauty. In our country, girls who watch a lot of TV (and who read popular magazines) are more likely to have eating disorders.
  • Precocious and irresponsible sexuality: Children turn to media to learn about sex and sexuality and what it means to be male or female. Commercially-driven screen media and toys promote stereotypical gender roles and highly sexualized images of girls and women.
  • Youth violence: Violent screen media designed for teens and adults is heavily marketed to children as young as preschoolers. Media violence can negatively affect children's behavior, their perception of real life violence, and their empathy for victims of violence.
The more time children and adults spend in front of screens, the more materialistic they become and that makes them more unhappy. The commercialism of the media promises that the things they buy will make them happy, but research says that doesn't happen. The pressure to spend and consume actually makes people less happy.

Children who have more materialistic values than their peers:

  • have lower self-esteem and a lower opinion of their parents.
  • are less happy, more depressed, report more symptoms of anxiety and have more psychosomatic illness.
  • report less generosity and allocate less money to charity when they imagine receiving a windfall.
  • engage in fewer positive environmental behaviors, such as reusing paper and using less water when showering.
Less Screen Time = Less Materialistic Values = More Life Satisfaction

The more time children and adults spend in front of screens, the more materialistic they become and that makes them more unhappy. The commercialism of the media promises that the things they buy will make them happy, but research says that doesn't happen. The pressure to spend and consume actually makes people less happy.

Children who have more materialistic values than their peers:

  • have lower self-esteem and a lower opinion of their parents.
  • are less happy, more depressed, report more symptoms of anxiety and have more psychosomatic illness.
  • report less generosity and allocate less money to charity when they imagine receiving a windfall.
  • engage in fewer positive environmental behaviors, such as reusing paper and using less water when showering.

Screen Time Facts

Screen time is defined as anything on a screen: TV, video games, computers, movies. There are many studies that support that the time in front of a screen is damaging on many levels.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends NO screen time for kids under 18 months of age. Older kids should have age-appropriate limits for both what they're doing and how much they're doing.
 
  • For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting.
  • Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming, and watch it with their children to help them understand what they're seeing.
  • For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.
  • For children ages 6 and older, place consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health. 
  • Designate media-free times together, such as dinner or driving, as well as media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms.
  • Have ongoing communication about online citizenship and safety, including treating others with respect online and offline.
Screen time statistics from the 2011 Screen Free Week Organizer's Kit: 
 
  • Forty percent of 3 month olds are regular viewers of TV/videos.
  • Screen time for kids under 3 years is linked to irregular sleep patterns and delayed language acquisition.
  • The more time in front of the screen the less time they are interacting with people and in active play.
  • Studies show toddlers who watch TV have more aggressive behaviors, poorer grades later in school and are more likely to be overweight.
  • Screen time is habit forming and addictive. The more you watch/play on a screen, the more you desire to do more time in front of the screen.
  • On average preschool children see nearly 25,000 commercials!
  • Children 8-18 years spend an average of 4.5 hours/day watching TV, 1.5 hours on a computer, and more than an hour playing video games.
  • Time spent on a screen is associated with obesity, sleep disturbances, and attention span issues for school aged kids.
  • Children who spend more than 2 hours in front of a screen are more likely to have increased psychological difficulties, emotional and conduct problems, and difficulties with peers.
  • In a survey of 8-18 year olds, nearly 1 in 4 felt addicted to video games.
  • Teens who watch 3+ hours of TV / day are at risk for poor homework completion, negative attitudes toward school, poor grades, and academic failure.
  • Teens with a TV in their bedroom spend more time watching TV, have less physical activity, have poorer dietary habits, fewer family meals, and worse school performance than those without.
  • Children with a TV in their bedroom are more likely to be overweight.

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