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Rural Health Information Hub

Screen Time

Digital technology and interactive media poses health concerns in early childhood. There is an association between use of screens, including televisions, smartphones, tablets, computers, video game players, and touch screens, and increases in BMI, reductions in sleep, and developmental delays in early childhood. Some research attributes this correlation to three factors:

  • Increased consumption of unhealthy foods while on screens
  • Increased exposure to advertising for unhealthy foods
  • Sleep disruptions resulting from later bedtimes and less total sleep

Furthermore, sedentary behaviors that accompany screen time increase the risk of obesity. Evidence shows that screen time interventions among children reduce sedentary screen time, increase physical activity, improve dietary habits, and improve weight status.

A 2017 report by Common Sense Media found that 95% of homes in the U.S. with children 0-8 years of age had smartphones, 78% of homes had tablets, and 42% of children aged 0-8 years had their own tablet. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for infants and toddlers younger than 18 months of age, with the exception of video-chatting with family members. Children 18 months to five years of age should have no more than one hour of screen time per day and that should be spent on high-quality educational programs. Parents and caregivers should watch with children and ensure children understand what they are watching. As with other indicators associated with obesity, there is an inverse correlation between parental income and screen time: the lower the income level, the more time children spend on screens.

Resources to Learn More

Screen Time Interventions for Children
Reviews evidence-based interventions for reducing screen time in children and discusses outcomes, implementation examples, and provides intervention resources.
Organization(s): County Health Rankings & Roadmaps

Preventing Obesity through Reduced Screen Time Interventions
Outlines recommendations for limiting screen time offering planning, implementation, and evaluation/improvement considerations. The targeted audience of the fact sheet includes schools, preschools and daycare centers, WIC centers, and research clinics.
Organization(s): Association of States and Territorial Health Officials