How to create a plan to manage screen time for your kids

When it comes to screen time, how much is too much? How young is too young for a smart phone? Experts say when it comes to media use, what's right for one family, might not work for the next. However, building a family media plan can give parents a good place to start.

Large, medium, and small screens. They're everywhere you look. How often do teens and kids use them and when? What happens when screen time cuts into physical activity or sleep? Jenny Radesky, MD, is a pediatrician at the University of Michigan and is also a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the author of the 2016 Media Use Guidelines for Children.

"We've tried to answer this in a way that will help parents create some balance," Radesky said.

The council created an interactive website. Parents can build their family's personalized media plan.

"You can plug in who your children are, what their ages are, then you get a few choices of what the different healthier balanced technology-based behaviors that would be appropriate for that age," said Radesky.

Radesky recommends families try one or two things that might work for them.

"For some families it might be let's pick a few unplugged places in our house or a time of day, like dinnertime," she said.

Radesky also said parents should explain their media use out loud, for example, say, "I'm texting dad to tell him where we should meet." It demonstrates positive smartphone use.

"Parents or kids, they want to know these things. They want to feel in control," she said.

The World Health Organization just issued guidelines recommending little or no screen time for children under 5. Radesky said those guidelines are most important if a family is worried about a child's obesity risk.

Research has shown that with an hour to 90 minutes of sedentary media use, the obesity risk increases. Go to the American Academy of Pediatrics' site to build your family's media plan.
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