The Cooper Institute

Founded in 1970 by the "Father of Aerobics"
Kenneth H. Cooper MD, MPH


Screentime is detrimental to whole child health and vision

Written by
Amber Freeland
Posted in

Thursday, Jan 24, 2019

The lack of physical activity and abundance of screen time are two of the biggest obstacles to children’s health that we face. Sitting too much can be considered as dangerous of a risk factor for health as smoking, while excessive screen time is leading to a dramatic increase in nearsightedness. According to the Vision Impact Institute, physical activity can improve whole child health and vision.

Today’s students are less active than ever before. A recent study in Preventive Medicine showed that American 19 year-olds are as inactive as the average 60 year-old. This can lead to a wide variety of health problems such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and more. Regular physical activity and exercise is the best way to avoid these issues across the lifespan.  But inactivity isn’t the only problem.

Too much screen time can also have a detrimental effect on the overall physical health of our children. Today's children are spending more and more time in front of a screen, much of it in the name of learning. Between cell phones, tablets, computers and television, it’s no wonder that myopia (nearsightedness) is gaining attention all across the world.

In 2010, just over 28 percent of the world's population was affected by nearsightedness. Current trends indicate that this will rise to nearly 50 percent by 2050. According to All About Vision, computer vision syndrome is a real problem. Kids under age 8 now spend more than two hours a day viewing digital devices. Kids 8-10 years old are spending nearly six hours per day on screens awhile 11-14 year-olds jump to nearly nine hours per day. How much screen time is appropriate and safe for children?

  • Children under 2 years old = no screen time
  • Children 2-4 years old = one hour per day
  • Children 5 and older = two hours per day

As a result of both inactivity and excessive screen time, childhood obesity is on the rise leading to conditions like diabetes, poor self-esteem, lack of socialization skills, and mental health problems as well as other physical problems like myopia. Here are some ways to decrease screen time and increase physical activity to improve overall health and vision:

  • Find out how much screen time students get at school or daycare. In many cases, there are state laws that set daily limits.
  • Set limits on screen time at home.
  • Use the Media Use Plan and Calculator to calculate how much screen time is appropriate for each member of your family.
  • Designate a few screen-free days each week.
  • Encourage kids to play outside and take frequent breaks.
  • Set screen-free zones in the bedroom or at the dinner table.
  • Model behavior by limiting your own screen time.
  • Make physical activity part of your family’s regular schedule.
  • Challenge your family to participate in Screen-Free Week from April 29 - May 5.

Before you hand over that iPad, start that Netflix binge, or let your child play video games in their room, keep in mind that screen time is detrimental to whole child health. Setting healthy limits and getting regular physical activity improves whole health and vision for the whole family.