GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – A Greenville psychiatrist spoke about how much screen time is too much for children and why excessive screen time can be damaging to kids’ brains.
Dr. Carson Felkel, M.D., an adult, child and adolescent psychiatrist with Bon Secours St. Francis Health, said, “Kids spend about seven hours a day on screens, and if you look over their educational career, by the time they’re getting ready to graduate, they will have spent more time on a screen than actually in the classroom.”
He said screen time includes any time that kids are using or watching any device with a screen, including time at school and at home. “The American Academy of Pediatrics has set recommendations, and they’re based on the age of a child. So, for an 18-month-old and younger, they recommend no screen time. For a two to five-year-old, they recommend one hour,” Dr. Felkel said.
For children six and older, he says that parents should set consistent limits. Dr. Felkel recommends no more than two hours of screen time each day for this age group.
“Especially for little kids, making it an educational, high quality show is important. Screen time is a privilege so when you take away the screen time from the kid and they throw a tantrum, that’s a warning sign,” Dr. Felkel said. For young children, he recommends that parents “witness firsthand what their kids are observing, so [parents] can experience it and see if they approve of the messaging.”
Dr. Felkel said too much screen time can cause physical brain damage. “We call it atrophy. So, important parts of the brain, like the front part, like the frontal lobe, you can actually get thinning of the brain. This part of the brain actually regulates thinking attention, cognition, impulse control: things that kids are already usually struggling at.” Dr. Felkel also encourages parents to model good behavior for children, such as turning off phones when home with kids in the evenings.
For more recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics about screen time for children, visit: https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/American-Academy-of-Pediatrics-Announces-New-Recommendations-for-Childrens-Media-Use.aspx.
To create a family media plan or calculate screen time, visit: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/media/Pages/default.aspx.
To submit a question to the Ask the Expert series, visit: https://www.wspa.com/ask-the-expert.