My son spends so much time with a screen in his face

Ask The Doctor:
My son spends so much time with a screen in his face...

My son spends so much time with a screen in his face.  Lots of his games and shows are educational, but I still worry about the effect this has on his health, especially his eyesight.  How much is too much?

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, kids between 8-18 years of age spend an average of 6 hr/day in front of a TV or computer/game display and all kids less than 6 years of age watch about of 2 hr/day.  That number includes infants and toddlers, two-thirds of which watch an average of 2 hr/day!  The average child will see 200,000 acts of violence on TV by the time they are 18 years old, and this includes 8,000 murders! The first 2 years of life are critical years for brain development. TV and DVDs get in the way of these little ones exploring, playing, interacting with parents, and early language development.  As kids get older it interferes with physical activity, reading, and learning to interact with family and friends.  By allowing your child to spend so much of their time doing this behavior, you are setting them up to develop poor interpersonal skills, a short attention span, more aggressive behavior, as well as a lifelong habit of a living a more sedentary life.  That inactive lifestyle can lead to obesity and an increased risk of diabetes, premature cardiovascular disease, and a shorten lifespan.

Yes, TV can be an excellent source of education and entertainment, but too much can be detrimental.  So what are parents to do about this form of visual electronic media that has become so ingrained in our society?  Limit their kids' TV/game/video time.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children less than 2 yr shouldn't watch TV, and kids older than that shouldn't watch an average of more than 1-2 hrs/day.  In the year 2000, manufacturers had to place into their TV's a “V” chip, a device which blocks the viewing of violent acts.   Very few families however, actually activate this option on their TV's.  Parents need to limit the time the TV is on, select what your child watches, preview the TV schedule, sit down and  watch TV with your child, minimized their exposure to violence and commercials, consider watching more public television, keep TV's and computers out of the children's bedrooms, and turn these devices off during meals and homework time.

Oh, and about those eyes; sitting close to the TV screen does not effect a child's vision.  In fact Ophthalmologists tell us that children can actually tolerate sitting with their “nose on the screen” much better the adults can.