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Healthy Living: Weaning off pandemic-era screen time

Experts recommend limiting screen time to less than two hours today for most children.

Posted: Jul 27, 2021 12:19 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- Screen time for youth ballooned during the pandemic with children passing time online and engaging in remote learning, but experts say that as pandemic restrictions end, it may be time to make sure the extra screen time isn't a lasting habit.

Experts recommend limiting screen time to less than two hours a day for most children. Parents of children under 2 should keep screen time as minimal as possible.

"Can you imagine surviving this past year without screens and technology? I think it's OK to embrace screens and technology in moderation," said Oregon Medical Group pediatrician Dr. Laura Sanderson.

However, experts say that too much screen time can contribute to issues like sleep, weight and mood problems. The developing brain also needs to learn skills like problem-solving that can't be taught on television.

"You actually burn more calories reading a book than watching a TV show. So that kind of gives you an idea of how your brain is not stimulated the same way," said Sanderson. "Make sure that kids are using their minds with creative play, using their bodies, moving their bodies and interacting with real people."

For that reason, returning to pre-pandemic screen time recommendations can help children resume healthy development. Being supportive of your child as they adapt to a new routine with less time interacting with screens can help curb any behavioral concerns.

"Set a timer like, 'You've got 20 minutes of screen time. After that, you need to be outside for at least 20 minutes,'" said Sanderson.

Giving children warnings prior to screen time ending can also help make the transition less jarring.

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