How much Screen Time Is Good for My Kids?

screen time for 10- and 11-year-olds

Pediatricians, psychologists, psychiatrists, clinicians, and educators are expected to be experts on all types of childhood issues. As a result , parents who have questions about the impact of screen time on their children come to these “experts” and want answers. They want to know how much screen time is good for their kids, what type of content kids should be consuming, and how to deal with excessive screen time. However, very few of these “experts” received any training that pertains to screen time, so they are left to learn about this on their own or to provide their own informed (or uninformed) opinions.

Most child care professionals have been faced with questions about children’s’ screen time, and many recent studies reflect what parents are telling us. Common Sense Media conducted a 2015 study that found that teens and preteens spend about 9 hours a day with digital media. Much of their awake time is engaged with mobile technologies (primarily phones and tablets), accounting for 41% of all screen time among tweens and 46% among teenagers. Those pictures of teenagers sitting together but staring into their phones are representative of what is really happening.

Parents are concerned about this, so they speak to child care professionals. A recent study of nearly 2000 parents found that the most pressing public health issue for their children was excessive screen time. Anecdotally in my work as a child clinical psychologist, I have found parents to be confused, concerned, and confounded about the impact of so much screen time on their kids.

Our team at LearningWorks for Kids has been examining concerns about how much screen time is good for kids for many years. I’d like to think  that we have a well-informed opinion based upon our work with kids and families and also examination of the research and being up to date with the newest books on this subject. My interns have compiled the following list of new books on this topic in order to help clinicians educate themselves in this area.  

Here are some of my favorite screen time books, listed by the most recently published:  

The Art of Screen Time: How Your Family Can Balance Digital Media and Real Life by Anya Kamenetz, PublicAffairs, 2018.

Details a philosophy to help parents moderate technology in their children’s lives and create room for a happy, healthy family life with and without screens.

Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked by Adam Alter, Penguin Books, 2018.

Tracks the rise of behavioral addiction and why people become addicted to new products. Explains how to harness addictive products for the good to improve how we communicate with each other, spend and save our money, and set boundaries between work and play and how we can mitigate their most damaging effects on our well-being and the health and happiness of our children.

The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World (MIT Press) by Adam Gazzaley and Larry D. Rosen, MIT Press, 2016.

Explains why our brains aren’t built for multitasking and suggests better ways to live in a high-tech world without giving up our modern technology.

Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction Is Hijacking Our Kids – and How to Break the Trance by Nick Kardaras, St. Martin’s Press, 2016.

Examines how technology, specifically age-inappropriate screen tech with all of its glowing ubiquity, has profoundly affected the brains of an entire generation.

Screenwise: Helping Kids Thrive (and Survive) in Their Digital World by Devorah Heitner, Bibliomotion, 2016.

Describes how to encourage children to learn through the digital age and what it is like for children to grow up with technology and shows the advantages and challenges this presents.

Digital Kids: How to Balance Screen Time, and Why it Matters by Martin Kutscher, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2016.

Lays out the essential information needed to understand and prevent excessive Internet use that negatively impacts behavior, education, family life, and physical health.

The Power of Off: The Mindful Way to Stay Sane in a Virtual World by Nancy Colier, Sounds True, 2016.

Depicts ways to use technology to promote, rather than detract from, our well-being. Provides an essential resource for those wanting to create a more empowered relationship with technology in the digital age.

Mind Change: How Digital Technologies Are Leaving Their Mark on Our Brains by Susan Greenfield, Random House, 2015.

Reveals the complex physiological, social, and cultural ramifications of living in the digital age and shows the stressful impacts as well as the potential benefits that living in a digital lifestyle has to offer.

Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson, Riverheads Books, 1st Edition, 2016.

Speaks to the long-standing argument that the cutting edge of innovation lies wherever people are working the hardest to keep themselves and others amused.

A Parent’s Guide to Video Games: The essential guide to understanding how video games impact your child’s physical, social, and psychological well-being by Rachel Kowert, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016.

From Amazon: “A Parent’s Guide to Video Games was developed specifically to help parents better understand if, how, and why video game play can impact a child’s physical, social, and psychological well-being.”

Screens and Teens: Connecting with Our Kids in a Wireless World by Kathy Kotch, Moody Publishers, 2015.

Counters the view that technology and screen time can teach teens and be a positive influence through a Biblical standpoint and shares success stories of families who have cut back on technology and prioritized each other.

Reset Your Child’s Brain: A Four-Week Plan to End Meltdowns, Raise Grades, and Boost Social Skills by Reversing the Effects of Electronic Screen-Time by Victoria Dunckley, New World Library, 2015.

Details a four-week intervention that can produce a shift in brain function without cost or medication. Provides hope for parents who feel their children have been misdiagnosed or inappropriately medicated by presenting an alternative explanation for their children’s difficulties and a concrete plan for treating them.

The Game Believes in You: How Digital Play Can Make Our Kids Smarter by Greg Toppo, St. Martin’s Press, 2015.

Presents the story of a small group of visionaries who for the past 40 years have been pushing to get game controllers into the hands of learners.

Getting Gamers: The Psychology of Video Games and Their Impact on the People who Play Them by Jamie Madigan, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2015.

From Amazon: “This book offers something unique to the millions of people who play or design games: how to use an understanding of psychology to be a better part of their gaming communities, to avoid being manipulated when they shop and play, and to get the most enjoyment out of playing games.”

Parenting in the Age of Attention Snatchers: A Step-by-Step Guide to Balancing Your Child’s Use of Technology by Lucy Jo Palladino, Shambhala, 2015.

From Amazon: “Parents will learn the best practices to guide children to understand and control their attention — and to recognize and resist when their attention is being snatched This approach can be modified for kids of all ages.”

Playing Smarter in a Digital World: A Guide to Choosing and Using Popular Video Games and Apps to Improve Executive Functioning in Children and Teens by Randy Kulman, Specialty Press, 2014.

Describes the importance of a healthy “Play Diet” in a world dominated by screens. Explores how digital media can be used to promote problem solving and executive-functioning skills crucial for 21st century children.

Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World by Gary Chaplan and Arlene Pellicane, Northfield Publishing, 2014.

Provides instruction on how to replace mindless screen time with meaningful family time, establish simple boundaries that make a huge difference,  learn healthy ways to occupy children while they parents get thing done, and more.

Screen-Smart Parenting: How to Find Balance and Benefit in Your Child’s Use of Social Media, Apps, and Digital Devices by Jodi Gold, A Division of Guilford Publications, Inc, 2014. Helps foster parents teach their children (from birth to the teen years) how to have a healthy relationship with technology.

The Parent App: Understanding Families in the Digital Age by Lynn Schofield Clark, The Oxford University Press, 2014.

Provides smart, sensitive, and effective strategies for coping with the dilemmas of digital and mobile media in modern life.

Technology and Digital Media in the Early Years: Tools for Teaching and Learning by Chip Donohue, Routledge, 2014.

Offers early childhood educators and professional development providers in pre-service, in-service, and continuing education settings a thought-provoking guide to effective, appropriate, and intentional use of technology with young children.

The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age  by Catherine Steiner-Adair and Teresa Barker, Harper Publications, 2013.

Shows how the Internet and the digital world are changing childhood and family dynamics and offers solutions parents can use to raise their children successfully in the technological world.

Talking Back to Facebook: The Common Sense Guide to Raising Kids in the Digital Age by James P. Steyer, Scriber, 2012.

From Amazon: “A smart, urgently needed book that helps parents and their kids navigate today’s online landscape — from the founder and CEO of the nation’s leading authority on kids and the media.”

Unplug Your Kids: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Happy, Active and Well-Adjusted Children

in the Digital Age by David Dutwin, Adams Media, 2009.

From Amazon: In this book, parent and scholar David Dutwin, Ph.D., shows parents everywhere how to cut the digital cord and free their children to play and learn the old-fashioned way – actively!”

Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens: Helping Young People Learn To Use the Internet Safely and Responsibly by Nancy Willard, Jossey Bass, 2007.

From Amazon: “In Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens, Willard shows [how strategies] can be translated from the real world to the cyber world, [without having to learn] advanced computer skills to put them into effect.”


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