Today, almost 75% of teenagers own a smartphone that they use to access the internet, watch TV and videos, and download interactive applications (apps). The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests overuse of digital media and screens may place your child at risk of the following:
· Negative effect on school performance. Children often use entertainment media at the same time that they’re doing other things, such as homework. Such multi-tasking can have a negative effect on school performance.
· Obesity. Excessive screen use, including having a TV in the bedroom, can increase the risk of obesity. Kids who watch up to five hours of TV per day are five times more likely to be overweight than teens who watch up to two hours. Viewers are also more likely to snack or overeat while watching screen media.
· Sleep problems. Media use can interfere with sleep. Kids who spend more time with social media or who sleep with mobile devices in their rooms are at greater risk for sleep problems. Exposure to light (particularly blue light) and stimulating content from screens can disrupt sleep and have a negative effect on school.
· Cyberbullying. All children and teens who are online can be victims. Cyberbullying can lead to short- and long-term negative social, academic, and health issues for both the bully and the target. Fortunately, programs to help prevent bullying may reduce cyberbullying.
· Sexting and privacy and predators. Sexting is sending nude or semi-nude images as well as sexually explicit text messages using a cell phone. Teens need to know that once content is shared with others they may not be able to delete or remove it completely. There can be serious legal penalties as well. They may also not know about or choose not to use privacy settings. And, sex offenders may use social networking, chat rooms, e-mail and online games to contact and exploit children.
Children need adequate sleep (8-12 hours, depending on age), at least an hour of daily physical activity and time away from media. Discuss healthy media use with your child. Place consistent limits on hours of media use as well as types of media used. And, don’t forget to set a good example … turn off the TV and put your smartphone on “do not disturb” during media-free time and mealtime with your family.