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How Much Screen Time Should A Teenager Have And Tips To Limit

How Much Screen Time Should A Teenager Have And Tips To Limit

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A recent study by Pew Research Center states that around 72% of US teens say they often check their mobile phones for messages and as soon as they wake up in the morning. The research has also found that 56% of teens associate the absence of their cell phones to one of the three following emotions–anxiety, loneliness, or being upset–and 54% of teens say that they spend too much time on their cell phones (1).

For a generation born after the internet boom, it is but natural for them to be obsessed with mobile phones, laptops, and tablets. But extended screen time poses many risks and affects children’s physical, mental, and emotional health.

Let’s learn more about the effects of extended screen time for teens and ways to help them manage their screen time effectively.

What Is Screen Time?

Screen time denotes the sedentary activities done in front of or using a device with a screen, such as watching TV, working on the computer, playing video games, and using social media (2). With most teenagers being well-acquainted with technological devices, there has been a worrying rise in screen time in this age group across the world.

Teenagers spend much time on screened devices researching for their school projects, doing their homework, or pursuing their hobbies. While screened devices help teens in these activities, extended screen time is harmful for them.

What Is The Recommended Screen Time For Teens?

A maximum of two hours on screened devices, barring the time spent for homework, may be considered ideal for teens (3).

However, note that the recommended screen time for each teen can vary and should be tailor-made for each child (4). And a one-size-fits-all approach cannot be used to determine screen time for teenagers. Meanwhile, you can play an active role in deciding your teen’s screen time by making provisions for adequate sleep, homework, outdoor play, and hobbies.

Risks Of Excessive Screen Time

Although screen devices are a source of information for your child, excessive screen time has negative effects (5) (6). These include

1. Bad posture

Many teens who spend a major chunk of their day on screened devices adopt unhealthy and improper postures. It is common to find teenagers working or playing on a screen device while sitting or lying on their bed. This can result in a hunched posture and neck and spine issues as they grow older.

2. Impaired sleep and insomnia

Sleep disorders are on the rise among teenagers. And a major trigger factor for these disorders is the excessive use of cellular phones (7). Blue light rays emitted by the screened devices interfere with melatonin production, the hormone responsible for inducing sleep.

3. Obesity

Excessive use of screened devices results in sedentary behavior among teenagers. This results in very little physical or outdoor activity, increasing the risk of obesity among this age group (8).

4. Behavioral problems

Increased screen time results in poor sleep among teenagers. This can further translate to behavioral problems in children of this age group (9).

5. Increased insecurity

When teenagers spend a lot of their time on social media, they constantly imbibe content of different types, both consciously and unconsciously. They may also tend to subconsciously compare themselves with others or what they have with those of others. This can give rise to insecurity and behavioral issues among teenagers.

6. Rising materialistic views

Due to social media influence and the various types of content available to them, some teenagers may believe ‘being wealthy’ and ‘having expensive things’ define them. This can make them materialistic.

7. Increased loneliness

It may sound paradoxical, but teenagers today may be lonelier than generations before them despite being so connected using their mobile phones, tablets, and other screen devices.

8. Unsafe and inappropriate content

Teenagers are still learning more about the world around them and trying to find their individuality. Younger teens have impressionable minds and might not be able to differentiate right from wrong, especially on the Internet. They may come across fake news or inappropriate content that can affect them negatively. They can also be lured into dangerous activities by the wrong people online.

9. Vision and brain health

Excessive screen time can affect a teen’s eyes and vision. The overuse of the muscles in and around the eye due to increased screen time can lead to eye fatigue, blurry vision, and dry eyes (10).

Effective Tips To Limit Your Teen’s Screen Time

Here are some handy tips that you can use to manage your teen’s screen time and keep it within safe limits (11).

1. Be a good role model

Children look up to their parents and learn from their actions and behavior. This holds true for teens too. So, if you expect your children to limit their screen time and get off their phones and tabs, you must be a good role model and control your screen time too.

2. Teach them to prioritize their tasks

Learning to prioritize tasks is a skill that all parents must teach their children in their growing-up years. To help your teen minimize their screen time, teach them to prioritize what is important and what needs to be done first. A good place to begin is teaching them how multitasking with a screen can be a distraction when studying or getting work done.

3. Encourage them to be more social

It is easy for teens who spend most of their day on screened devices to become less social, have fewer friends, or prefer to avoid people altogether. A good way to reduce their screen time is to encourage them to spend more time with friends or make new friends.

4. Encourage your child to take up a sport or hobby

Encourage your children to take up physical activities, participate in sports, or take up a hobby early on in their life. Participating in a sport or hobby can help your teen stay fit and reduce their screen time.

5. Have screen time rules

Every home should have reasonable screen time rules. This is an essential part of balanced parenting and helps you create a disciplined environment for your teen. It may be a good idea to discuss with your teen rather than dictate screen time rules. This makes it a family rule rather than a punishment.

6. Educate them about risks online

As parents of a teenager, you must begin to communicate more openly with them. Discuss the many Internet safety risks and teach them the safety tips. Observe and understand how they communicate with people using their mobile phones or laptop. This can give you an idea about their behavior online. Also, make your teens aware of the privacy settings that they can use to control what they share on the Internet and stay safe.

7. Motivate them to self-regulate their screen time

Teens love to be in control, and you can use this to your advantage and help regulate their screen time. Find some free tools and apps that your teen can use to assess and track the time they spend on screens and devices.

8. Teach them to be more critical about content they see online

Children often believe everything they see on the Internet. However, this can get them into trouble or make screen time dangerous for them. Thus, it is a good idea to educate your teen to be critical about what they see online and not believe all they see or read.

9. Teach them to balance their screen time

It is totally understandable if your teen wants to catch up with friends on social media or follow some content of their interest online. And, it is unfair to ask them to stop using their devices completely. Thus, it is imperative you teach them to balance their screen time. This will prevent them from getting attached to their devices excessively.

10. Have electronics-free mealtimes

It is a great rule to have electronics- and screen-free meal times. This allows all the members of the family to communicate with each other, discuss how their day went, or just bond.

11. Schedule family activities without devices

Weekends are a time for relaxing, and everyone looks forward to letting loose. Spending time as a family, without screens, is a great bonding opportunity for each member. So, how about picking out activities or heading outdoors where everyone can enjoy, relax, and stay away from their screens for some time?

Teenage years are a box full of different life experiences. Teens today are exposed to much more of the world than the previous generations, thanks to the Internet and screened devices. However, just like anything in excess can be harmful, excess screen time can be harmful to your teen. It is vital to teach your teen how to balance their screen time and make the best use of their devices as safely as they can.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. How Teens and Parents Navigate Screen Time and Device Distractions.
    https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2018/08/22/how-teens-and-parents-navigate-screen-time-and-device-distractions/
  2. Screen time and children.
    https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000355.htm
  3. Screen Time for Kids: How much is too much?
    https://newsroom.osfhealthcare.org/screen-time-for-kids-how-much-is-too-much/
  4. How to manage kids’ screen time during the pandemic?
    https://www.reidhealth.org/blog/how-much-screen-time-should-kids-get-during-the-pandemic
  5. Three Risks of too much Screen Time for Teens
    https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/three_risks_of_too_much_screen_time_for_teens
  6. Screen time side effects in kids and teens.
    https://www.hopkinsallchildrens.org/ACH-News/General-News/Screen-Time-Side-Effects-in-Kids-and-Teens
  7. Sue K. Adams, et al. (2013). Adolescent Sleep and Cellular Phone Use: Recent Trends and Implications for Research. DOI:
    https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/hsph-in-the-news/smartphone-tablet-use-linked-with-obesity-in-teens/
  8. Smartphone, tablet use linked with obesity in teens.
    https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/hsph-in-the-news/smartphone-tablet-use-linked-with-obesity-in-teens/
  9. Justin Parent, et al. (2017). Youth Screen Time and Behavioral Health Problems: The Role of Sleep Duration and Disturbances. DOI:
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4851593/
  10. Give your child’s eye a screen-time break: Here’s why.
    https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/eyes/Pages/What-Too-Much-Screen-Time-Does-to-Your-Childs-Eyes.aspx
  11. Balancing Screen Time.
    https://www.internetmatters.org/resources/screen-time-tips-to-support-teens/

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Dr. Meenakshi Maruwada

Dr. Meenakshi is a dentist and a passionate writer with over eight years of experience in dentistry and four years in writing. She started her career as a dentist with a dental chain in Mumbai and soon rose to lead the clinic as a Head Dentist. She then switched to working for two start-ups in healthcare, before beginning her own... more