Kids and Technology: How Much is Too Much?
Nearly all forms of technology — phones, tablets, video games, TV and computers — offer programs geared toward kids, from toddlers to teenagers. With technology so readily available (regardless of if it’s educational), parents should limit their child’s access.
What’s the problem with too much technology?
Social interaction is an essential part of a child’s growth and development. The overuse of technology can disrupt this critical interaction. Studies also have linked increased technology use to an increase in childhood obesity.
Why is personal interaction so important?
“One drawback of kids using technology is that it replaces interaction, exploration and live learning,” said Jeffrey Dolgan, PhD, Senior Psychologist at Children’s Hospital Colorado. “Young children learn more from being with their family, friends and other caregivers than from high-tech screen time. School-age children, teens and young adults also need person-to-person interaction to develop and refine social skills.”
What’s a good rule of thumb for young kids?
When it comes to kids and technology, maintaining balance is key to their development. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children age 2 and older should spend no more than two hours viewing screens daily, while children younger than 2 should not have any screen time.
For elementary, middle and high school-aged kids, Dr. Dolgan says that it’s difficult to nail down an exact number of hours per day, especially since so much homework and school-related projects require a computer. Instead, Dr. Dolgan advises parents to be aware of “screen time” and what’s going in their home.
“If your toddler is watching a movie, your 4th grader is playing video games, mom is on the iPad and dad is on the phone, this is not considered ‘family time’ – even if you’re all in the same room,” Dr. Dolgan said.
What about teenagers and young adults?
“For this age group that is really big on texting and social media, it really comes down to safety,” Dr. Dolgan said. “Parents need to talk to their kids about the risks associated with certain people, groups and activity online.”
And while it’s difficult for parents to limit texting and Facebook, Dr. Dolgan suggests clearly explaining the rules (no texting at dinner, all phones off at 9 p.m., etc.) and defining consequences for breaking the rules.
Read what Dr. Dolgan says about Facebook and depression.
How can I establish helpful boundaries?
As you find the appropriate balance of technology use for your child or teen, create family rules to help you along the way, such as:
• Placing time limits on your child’s technology use
• Leading by example and limiting your own technology use
• Engaging in activities such as having family dinners, reading books, playing games and exploring the outdoors
Get more parent resources from Children’s Hospital Colorado.