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For kids, what's the right amount of screen time?

  • Rochelle Anderson monitors her son Kaden, 11, as he sends an email at their Santa Rosa home, Monday, June 16, 2014. Anderson limits the time her kids get to spend on the computer, playing video games and watching television. (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)

The screen time rule in the Ogg household in Santa Rosa is a maximum two hours a day for 6-year-old Carina and 3-year-old Braden.

Kimi Ogg, a first-grade teacher, and husband Mike, who works at Sonoma State University and is the family computer geek, had no precedent to follow.

When their generation was growing up, screens came on a TV or a video game. Baby strollers did not come with iPad compartments. There were no iPod holders in potty chairs. Kids didn't beg for their own personal electronics.

But now, with more screens tempting the littlest eyeballs, what's a parent to do? Most American children spend from five to seven hours a day in front of a screen, which includes three hours of TV, according to National Institutes of Health statistics.

Less than half of that, two hours of screen time outside of school, is what the American Association of Pediatrics recommends for kids in middle school through high school. For elementary students, one hour per day. For babies and up to age 2, nothing.

There is yet no long-term data on what screen watching does to a child's neurological development, but there's plenty for educators, health experts and parents to worry over, including the effects on attention span, eyesight, social skills, sleeplessness and obesity.

In addition to monitoring their kids' screen time, which includes TV plus "some educational apps, some just for fun," Kimi Ogg said the house rules include "no technology at the dinner table."

"I equate these things to candy or treats," she said. "Okay once in a while but too much is unhealthy."

Santa Rosa doctor Mark Sloan, author of "Birth Day," said his concern for babies and toddlers is, "We learn to talk by talking to other people so we worry about slower language development," when young children are glued to a screen.

Sloan, a retired pediatrician now working toward his master's degree in public health, wonders about screen dependence turning kids into loners.


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