How to unplug: Too much screen time can have detrimental effect on kids' health

Posted at 7:25 AM, May 30, 2019

CLEVELAND — Some kids are already out of school for the summer and others get out in the next few weeks.

So parents, are you struggling to figure out how to keep them off their phones and tablets and away from their computer games?

"Sometimes we have three friends here all on different screens, playing and they're loud and they're rambunctious."

As kids grow up digital, it gets harder for parents, like mom of three Holly Boykin, to pull them away from the screen.

"It's a great way in some ways to talk and communicate with your friends or family who are out of town, but at the same time it can be all consuming,” Boykin, of Solon, said.

And according to Dr. Joseph Austerman, Director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Cleveland Clinic Children’s, it can also be dangerous, physically and mentally.

"We see that kids that sit down and are in front of the screen more often than not are more obese, have a more sedentary lifestyle which predisposes them to long term and chronic health conditions such as heart disease or diabetes,” Dr. Austerman said.

"Kids reporting more loneliness, higher rates of depression and ultimately higher rates of suicide."

Infants under the age of two shouldn’t have screen time at all, while kids between the ages of 2 and 8 should have a limited amount – no more than two hours a day.

So, how do you get your kids to put down their phones and tablets?

"The first thing I recommend parents do is monitor their child's activity online. Especially now that school's ending and we're getting into the summer, there's going to be a lot more time and a lot more downtime that kids have,” Dr. Austerman said.

From there, talk to your kids about the dangers of too much screen time and develop a schedule of activities for them.

"Oh, I first offered chores! Actually, that was the first thing I offered to him,” Boykin said.

And get the whole family involved.

"We try to have game nights where its actually playing like, I hate to say this, old school games like Monopoly and things like that,” Boykin said.

And be sure to set limits, because screens are here to stay.

"The way that our society's developed, screens are a part of our life whether it comes from education or jobs or part of our families. So its our job to sort of manage those expectations and really set the parameters around it,” Dr. Austerman said.