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The technology and media industries have grown significantly over the past two decades.

As these industries have become more widespread, their products are readily available to people

of all socio-economic classes, races, geographical locations, religions, and ages. Due to their

overwhelming popularity, technology and media companies have been invited into almost every

household in the United States. The influence these companies have over the population is

immeasurable as there is no city, town, company, family, or person that is untouched by media

and technology.

Children and adolescents are the most vulnerable of the age groups targeted by these

companies as they are highly influenced by outside forces. As children and adolescents continue

to develop physically, cognitively, and emotionally, it is critical that parent’s critical that parents

and caregivers are informed of the risks associated with the use of technology and media

products, also known as screen time. The scope of the problem, the associated risks, and

implications for change and limit-setting are all briefly addressed in the information to follow.

The Scope of the Problem

The current American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP, 2016) guidelines recommend that

children under two years old should not spend any time using electronic media, and that children

over two years old should be restricted to no more than two hours per day. However,

approximately 90% of parents appear to ignore these recommendations (Domingues-Montanari,

2016). In the early 1980s, the average child watched just under 16 hours of tv per week, today

the average American child spends over 50 hours per week watching tv and using screens

(Gentile, Berch, Khoo, Choo, & Walsh, 2017).


The American Academy of Pediatrics published recommendations in 1999 and again in

2001 which stated that children should never be allowed to have a bedroom TV, however, over

40% of children ages four to six and 71% of children age eight and older have a bedroom TV

(Gentile, Berch, Khoo, Choo, & Walsh, 2017). Additionally, 97% of US adolescents have at

least one television, computer, video game console, or mobile phone in their bedroom (Hale &

Guan, 2014). This is increasingly problematic as it has become more difficult to for parents and

caregivers to supervise and guide the child’s use of media and technology.

Risks Associated with Screen Time

The risks associated with screen time among children and adolescents are wide-ranging.

Although parents and educators believe that technology can be used for educational purposes, the

risks associated with increased usage can diminish the potential educational benefits.

Unfortunately, technology use is at an all-time high while the associated risks are not heavily

publicized, therefore, educators, parents, and caregivers are unknowingly exposing children to a

variety of risks.

Research has suggested that having screens in the bedroom leads to higher rates

of obesity due to less physical activity, over consumption of fatty and unhealthy foods, and

disrupted sleep patterns (Chaput, et al., 2014). Domingues-Montanri (2016) reported that

previous research has illustrated that screen time was inversely correlated with mental health,

academic achievement, school disconnectedness, and self-esteem in adolescents. Technology and

social media usage also increases the likelihood of depression and anxiety as adolescents are

hyper focused on the lives of others, while often comparing themselves to the images they see on

the screens. Adolescents that compare themselves to the pictures and information found online

are often left feeling inadequate and insufficient.


While conducting a literature review investigating the risks associated with screen time,

Domingues-Montanri (2016) reported finding evidence that supported increased screen time was

associated with decreased vocabulary, decreased number knowledge, increased risk of language

delay, and lower classroom engagement among early childhood students, with each of these risks

being proportionate to the time spent in front of the TV. Although screens are often used with the

intention of helping children in one way or another, the benefits of interpersonal interaction is

considered to be extremely more beneficial than using technology as a means of substitution.

Enforcing and Setting Limits on Screen Time

Children spent significantly less time using screens in environments where parents were

aware of recommended limits and the rules regarding media were consistently enforced (Carlson,

et al., 2010). One study found that rules enforced by parents regarding media were obeyed and

associated with lower rates of adolescent screen time (Ramirez, et al., 2011). Furthermore, it has

been reported that in households with rules limiting media usage, children spent more time doing

homework and had higher achievement rates in school (Gentile, Berch, Khoo, Choo, & Walsh,

2017).

Vygotsky’s theory on child development (as cited in Nikken and Schols, 2015) reports

that parental mediation, referred to as any attempt of the parent to control or supervise, is the key

strategy in “developing children’s skills to use and interpret the media, foster positive outcomes,

and prevent negative effects of the media on children” (p. 3424). With supervision and guidance,

parents can teach children how to appropriately use media and technology.

There are several styles of mediation that parents can utilize for television and games: (1)

restriction mediation poses restrictions on time and content; (2) active restriction mediation
involves discussing content and giving explanation or instructions to the child to enhance safety,

raise critical awareness, or stimulate learning outcomes; (3) co-use mediation involves using

media alongside the child for entertainment and educational purposes; (4) supervision mediation

involves staying nearby to observe children using technology and media platforms; (5) post

monitoring mediation entails checking the browser history or logs from social media applications

to monitor the child’s online activities after they use media; and (6) technical restriction

mediation involves using ‘parental controls’ to block inappropriate content and to regulate the

child’s usage of media and technology (Nikken & Schols, 2015).

It’s unrealistic to believe that anyone could be shielded from the use of technology. We

are currently in the ‘technology age’ in which schools are continuously utilizing technological

advances to guide students’ learning and communication is mostly employed through phones and

computers. Therefore, it is essential for caregivers and parents create rules and regulations

targeted at ensuring technology is being used appropriately. Household guidelines that are aimed

at healthy use of screen time include developing a family media use plan, avoiding screen time

during meals and one hour before bed, discouraging the use of entertainment media while doing

homework, and designating media-free times (Swartz, 2017).

Although there are obvious benefits of technology and media use, there are also

numerous risks that are associated with inappropriate usage. When technology is overused or

misused, there are significant risks that are likely to occur. Research has established that child

and adolescent technology usage grossly exceeds the suggested amount. Therefore, intervention

is necessary to prevent the likelihood of developmental delays and other associated risks.

Interventions targeted at informing parents, establishing household media guidelines, and

reinforcing more physical activities are beneficial in reducing screen time in children.
References

American Academy of Pediatrics. (2016). Media and young minds. Pediatrics,138(5).

doi:10.1542/peds.2016-2591

Carlson, S. A., Fulton, J. E., Lee, S. M., Foley, J. T., Heitzler, C., & Huhman, M. (2010). Influence

of limit-setting and participation in physical activity on youth screen time. Pediatrics,126(1), 89-

96. doi:10.1542/peds.2009-3374

Chaput, J., Leduc, G., Boyer, C., Belanger, P., LeBlanc, A. G., Borghese, M. M., & Tremblay, M. S.

(2014). Electronic screens in children's bedrooms and adiposity, physical activity and sleep: Do

the number and type of electronic devices matter? Canadian Journal of Public Health,105(4),

273-279.

Domingues-Montanari, S. (2016). Clinical and psychological effects of excessive screen time on

children. Journal of Pediatrics Ad Child Health,(53), 333-338. doi:10.1111/jpc.13462

Gentile, D. A., Berch, O. N., Khoo, A., Choo, H., & Walsh, D. A. (2017). Bedroom media: One risk

factor for development. Developmental Psychology,53(12), 2340-2355.

http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/dev0000399

Hale, L., & Guan, S. (2015). Screen time and sleep among school-aged children and adolescents: A

systematic literature review. Sleep Medicine Reviews,21, 50-58.

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.smrv.2014.07.007

Nikken, P., & Schols, M. (2015). How and why parents’ guide the media use of young

children. Journal of Child and Family Studies,24, 3423-3435. doi:10.1007/s10826-015-0144-4


Ramirez, E., Norman, G. J., Rosenberg, D. E., Kerr, J., Saelens, B. E., Durant, N., & Sallis, J. F.

(2011). Adolescent screen time and rules to limit screen time in the home. Journal of Adolescent

Health,448, 379-385. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2010.07.013

Swartz, M. K. (2017). Taking another look at screen time for young children. Journal of Pediatric

Health Care,31, 141-141. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pedhc.2017.01.006