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Spending time in front of a screen can negatively affect children

Annie Spratt

When did you last spend any measurable length of time not looking at or listening to an electronic device?  The last time you stared without blinking at anything besides a screen?  

Now try to answer that question for the children in your life. For anyone under the age of 20, screens have been ubiquitous since birth. They have been used to babysit. They have been used to assign, complete, and turn-in school work. They sit on our desks, hang on our walls, and rest in our pockets, though they probably spend more time in our hands than our pockets, if we’re being honest.  

More than two hours a day in front of a screen has been linked to childhood obesity, behavioral problems, impaired academic performance, and more.  Don’t get me wrong, allowing children excessive screen time doesn’t make you a bad parent. But it does provide an opportunity to practice your parenting skills. Have you seen your child watching TV with their phone in their hand? Ask them to choose one or the other and remove one. But make sure you do the same thing yourself. Has your child gotten in the habit of eating in front of a screen? Try to keep these activities separate to reduce the connection between screen time and food. Again though, practice what you preach. And as much as possible, keep screens out of the bedroom. The blue-light from electronic devices has detrimental effects on sleep patterns and therefore on mental health. And having virtually unlimited access to screens in the privacy of the bedroom creates opportunities for all kinds of unhealthy behaviors both in the short- and long-term.  

Parenting is tough, but mental health organizations abound in Wichita with programs specifically for children.  If you’re concerned, call any one of them for help for you or your children.

Eric Litwiller has served the south central Kansas community through his work at Mental Health Association since September of 2017. As Director of Development and Communications, he is charged with seeking the private investment required to raise awareness of the scope of mental health concerns throughout the region in an effort to eliminate the unfair stigma associated with mental illness.