Screen time

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Screen time is the amount of time spent using a device such as a computer, television, or video game console. It can be an element of a sedentary lifestyle.


The term screen time has been usually referred to in a negative context as the AAP (American Academy Pediatrics) advises parents to limit the screen time for children.[1] The phenomenon itself has existed since the technology has been available to the general public. The installation of television by Americans was more rapid over the 1950s than any other information and communication technology to come before.[1] With the increase in the technological advances, the use of devices consisting of screens, such as TV, computers, laptops and cell phones, increased resulting in the increase in screen time. In the late 1990s, adolescents spent an average of 1.5 to 2.5 hours per day watching television.[2] Similar averages are present across nations North America and Europe as well as Japan and Korea.[2] Experts have suggested that excessive screen time is harmful especially if the content is violent. Several many attempts have been made to reduce or control screen time. In the 1970s the “television-free” movement emerged which appeal to reduce the screen time.[1] The Children’s Television Act (1990) provide the children with more educational programming and the Telecommunication Act of 1996 grant parents a way to control the television content.[2] Both of the Acts put restrictions on how the screen time is used.

Screen time and children[edit]

A child using a tablet

How much screen time a child receives may depend on socioeconomic status and race. Research in the United States states that African-American (69%) and Hispanic (68%) children have rates of a television in the bedroom that are twice as high compared to white children (28%).[3]

Too much screen time can affect a child's health, potentially leading to weight issues, sleep disturbances, and more. Children consume an extra 167 calories per day for every hour of television viewing.[4] TV viewing also causes an increase in fast food consumption and more time spent playing video game is linked to an increase in weight in children.[5]

The study of increased screen time in children is fairly new[6] and researchers have not been able to observe effects long enough to make a solid conclusion on potential negative consequences as children age. However, aside from its effects on health, the American Academy of Pediatrics have raised other potential risks that come with excessive screen time in children. They include "exposure to inaccurate, inappropriate, or unsafe content and contacts; and compromised privacy and confidentiality."[7]

Screen time and sleep disturbances[edit]

With the increased amount of technology in the home comes an increase of certain specific health effects due to the fact that the accumulated amount of daily screen time in children ages 8 to 18 grew from five hours to eight hours from 1996 to 2016.[8] Some of the health effects that can be brought about with increased screen time are lack of sleep due to late bedtimes, arousal from media sources which leads the inability to sleep, daytime tiredness, trouble internalizing and/or externalizing problems according to the study done by Justin Parent.[8] The light from electronic screens can affect the circadian rhythm of children and disrupt alertness directly which is why the American Academy of Pediatrics only recommends children get a maximum of two hours of screen time a day. For young children ages 3–7 the amount of sleep disturbances greatly increases after 6 hours of screen time, and for children 8-12 the amount of sleep disturbances greatly increased after the 10-hour mark. After 4 or 6 hours of daily screen time, sleep duration drops for adolescents.

Internet and screen time[edit]

The use of the internet expanded in the 1990s. This caused the increase in the usage of devices that could access the internet and the increase in screen time. In 2001 an average user spent 83 minutes online.[9]


  1. ^ a b c Alper, Meryl (2014). John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Reports on Digital Media and Learning : Digital Youth with Disabilities. Cambridge, US: The MIT Press. pp. 19–20 – via 
  2. ^ a b c Anderson, D. R., & Larson, R. (2001). Early childhood television viewing and adolescent behavior: The recontact study (Vol. 66). Boston, MA: Blackwell. pp. 25, 133
  3. ^ Rideout, V. (2011). Zero to eight: Children’s media use in America . San Francisco, CA: Commonsense Media. Further analysis of original data published by Commonsense Media was conducted on October 4, 2012 by Melissa Saphir and Vicky Rideout at the request of this publication. . page 26.
  4. ^ Wiecha, Jean L.; Peterson, Karen E.; Ludwig, David S.; Kim, Juhee; Sobol, Arthur; Gortmaker, Steven L. (2006). "When Children Eat What They Watch". Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. 160 (4): 436. doi:10.1001/archpedi.160.4.436. 
  5. ^ Taveras, E. M.; Sandora, T. J.; Shih, M. C.; Ross-Degnan, D; Goldmann, D. A.; Gillman, M. W. (2006). "The association of television and video viewing with fast food intake by preschool-age children". Obesity. 14 (11): 2034–41. doi:10.1038/oby.2006.238. PMID 17135621. 
  6. ^ Moffat, P (2014). "Screen time. How much is healthy for children?". Community practitioner : the journal of the Community Practitioners' & Health Visitors' Association. 87 (11): 16–8. PMID 25612409. 
  7. ^ Media, Council on Communications And (2016-10-21). "Media Use in School-Aged Children and Adolescents". Pediatrics: e20162592. doi:10.1542/peds.2016-2592. ISSN 0031-4005. PMID 27940794. 
  8. ^ a b Parent, J; Sanders, W; Forehand, R (2016). "Youth Screen Time and Behavioral Health Problems: The Role of Sleep Duration and Disturbances". Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics. 37 (4): 277–84. doi:10.1097/DBP.0000000000000272. PMC 4851593Freely accessible. PMID 26890562. 
  9. ^ "World Wide Web Timeline". Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech. 2014-03-11. Retrieved 2016-12-09.