One of the ways in which parenting is dramatically different today than ever before is the fact that—on top of all of the usual parental concerns—you now have to worry about how all of the time that kids spends on their computers and smartphones is affecting their health. Since today’s youths are the first generation to grow up with technology from birth, there’s no longitudinal research on how all of this screen time affects us, but the preliminary findings are eye-opening.
Recently, a shocking new study of 1,958 children aged 7 to 12 years-old found that 27.7 percent of those who did not have myopia—or nearsightedness—developed the condition between 2010 and 2013, which scientists believe is due to the eye strain of staring at screens all day.
There’s also concern over the fact that kids aren’t spending enough time playing outside because they’re stuck indoors and glued their iPads, which has been proven to have a negative impact on the physical and mental health of both children and adults. (And the fact that analog clocks are disappearing from classrooms because kids today can apparently no longer tell time is just, well, frightening.)
But the question for parents then remains: how much screen time should your kid be allowed to have? After all, as any parent today will tell you (especially ones with multiple children), tablets today have become something of a necessary evil—the perfect “spare babysitter” for one child while you’re tending to the needs of another, and the best way to keep children occupied and quiet while traveling long distances. Those parents will be relieved to know that the answer isn’t zero.
According to a new study published in The Lancet, the answer is no more than two hours a day.
Researchers analyzed data from a 10-year-study of 4,524 America children aged 8 to 11 years-old and found that the ones who saw marked improvements in their cognitive development were those who followed the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth. This means at least an hour of physical activity per day, 9 to 11 hours of sleep per night, and two hours (or less!) of recreational screen time.
It sounds like fairly basic advice—kind of like telling parents that kids should brush their teeth before going to bed. But the study found that only 1 out of 20 children in the United States met all three guidelines, and one in three met none of the guidelines at all.
Given how serious our addiction to technology has become, if you take away your kid’s phone, they may whine or throw a temper tantrum, but they’ll thank you for that disciplinary measure later on in life, and in the long run, you’ll have a better relationship because of it. For more on the connection between your phone and your children, learn Why Your Phone Is Making You a Terrible Parent.
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