Dangers of Screen Time for Kids


SPRINGBORO, OH -- In today’s busy world and advances in technology, keeping kids away from the screen is getting harder and harder. But what are the real dangers of screen exposure for children?

What counts as screen time?

Basically, any time a screen is involved, it counts as screen time. Activities such as:

  • watching TV shows or movies;
  • playing on a computer, tablet, IPAD, or phone; 
  • playing video games; 
  • scrolling social media such as Facebook or TikTok; 
  • looking at pictures on any form of screen; 
  • watching educational shows, videos and YouTube 

are just some of the activities that require use of a screen.

How much screen time can my child have?

  • 2 years and under: children under the age of two should not be exposed to screen time
  • 2- 5 years: no more than one hour per day co-viewing with a parent
  • 6 and older: encourage healthy habits and limit activities that include screens, generally no more than two hours per day, except for homework.

In addition to hourly screen time limits, it is recommended that families:

  • turn off all screens during family meals and outings, 
  • use parental controls, 
  • avoid screens as pacifiers, baby-sitters or to stop tantrums 
  • turn off screens and remove them from bedrooms 30-60 minutes before bedtime. 

I see more and more families handing over their phone to keep their kids busy in the car, waiting for an appointment or waiting for food at a restaurant. Not only does this increase their screen time exposure, it also impacts their executive functioning, like learning how to wait patiently.

Too much screen time can be connected to:

  • Obesity
  • Behavioral problems- including Autistic like behaviors
  • Violence
  • Irregular sleep problems
  • Impaired academic performance
  • Misunderstanding between reality and fiction
  • Disconnect in relationships
  • Eating Disorders
  • Conduct Disorder and Oppositional Disorder
  • OCD

Is YouTube healthier than TV shows or movies?

Not necessarily...

"YouTube is actually designed with algorithms to keep you watching. It can reel one in and hook them. On-demand and new streaming technologies allow you to watch what you want, when you want…creating binges. However, most streaming content has some level of quality control, whereas with YouTube anyone can create media and post it." (Bertholds, Jess)

Does content matter?

Yes! Children are being exposed to content well above their age and maturity level, which can lead to a whole other range of problems. Kids are more easily exposed to sexual content, substance use, advertising, misleading information, cyberbullies, predators, unsafe stunt challenges, violence, and risky unsafe behaviors.

The content may also impact their understanding of reality. When watching TV or show, it is important to discuss and explain to your child what is real, what isn’t real, and what would happen in the “real world” if what you are watching really happened. 

A great example is Coco. Although the movie is colorful and presents looking at death in a different light, children may not understand that, unlike in the movie, you cannot come back to  life. My advice would be to watch the movie with your child once your child is old enough, enjoy it and then, after watching it,  talk about it.

My kid watches cartoons, that’s okay right?

Again, not necessarily. New research is finding that the rate of change the screen transitions and amount of movement on the screen may be too much for children’s visual systems leading to eye conditions and different kinds of behaviors. 

With newer technology and CGI, cartoons and shows quality is getting better and better, however, this may actually have a negative impact on a child’s overall well-being as their systems are not yet equipped to take that information in.

Why is it okay for adults but not kids?

Screens are addicting and adults may struggle with similar symptoms and behaviors from too much screen exposure. However, the main difference is their brain development. Children are still developing whereas an adult’s brain is fully developed. Therefore, the side effects of screen time and media are more likely to affect a child and their development more than an adult.


American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. No. 54; Updated February 2020. Screen Time and Children. Accessed on 7/1/2023 from https://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-G…

Bertholds, Jess. 12/19/2022. Too Much Screen Time Bad for Kids? It’s Complicated. UCSF Expert Explains Links to Disruptive Behavior, Increased Anxiety and Eating Disorders. Accessed on 7/1/2023 from https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2022/12/424481/too-much-screen-time-bad-kids-its-complicated#:~:text=How%20much%20screen%20time%20do,all%20screen%20time%20is%20equal

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