Kids Are Spending More Time in Front of Screens & Less Time Outside

Written by Dr. Andrew Doan & Brooke Strickland on .

Back in the day, kids would play outside for hours at a time. Riding bikes, playing make believe, and playing catch were commonplace after school or on the weekends. Today, that type of play is becoming more and more rare, simply because there is usually a screen everywhere a child turns that’s calling them to sit down and zone out. If you feel like your child is spending more and more time in front of a screen rather than getting outside, you are not the only one. New data released by Exstreamist shows that kids ages 2 to 7 are watching about 1.7 hours of streaming videos per day and young people ages 8 to 18 spend up to 3 hours a day watching TV through online streaming. That equals about 650 hours of streaming movies and TV every year. The National Wildlife Foundation reports that today the average kid in America only plays outside with unstructured play for about a half hour each day. This did not include sports activities. (1) (2)

If you have become numb to the fact that your child is spending more and more time in front of an iPad, television screen, or computer screen, it’s time to change that and begin implementing screen time limitations. Here are two ways to set limits on the time that your kids have allowed every day or week. 

Tip #1: Set boundaries.
Kids need boundaries from a young age and if you begin teaching them young that there are limits in life, it will be easier for them to grasp that there are also limits when it comes to screen time. Set a daily limit on television use or how long they can play games at the computer or on their iPad. If your kids are used to playing for 3 hours every day after school, cut it back by a half hour in the first week, then the next week by another half hour. Slowly cutting back the usage will allow for an easier transition. 

Tip #2: Encourage friendship and activities.
There are likely a lot of community events around town that you can encourage your children to get involved in. Whether it’s swimming at the local city parks and recreation department, attending a library event, or signing up for a local sports team, your child will learn that there is an exciting life to be lived away from the screen. Your kids will have the opportunity to gain social skills and foster new friendships. Both are great skills to take into adulthood!

Sitting in front of a screen surfing the Internet for hours at a time or watching television can end up being damaging to a developing child’s brain. To combat this, work at engaging them in all areas of their lives – physically, socially, and educationally. This comes by keeping them active and setting healthy boundaries on screen use. For more information:

  1. “Study: Kids spending much more time streaming shows than playing outside.” September 9, 2016. Accessed online September 19, 2016.
  2. Klein, Jacob. “Report: Netflix saves children from 150 hours of commercials a year.” August 31, 2016. Accessed online September 19, 2016.