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This Month In Health
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  • Teens and Screens
    Texting, gaming, and social media have captured the attention of teenagers and they aren’t looking back. As great as technology is, what's the price of so much screen time? Read >>
Health and Fitness News

Teens and Screens

What health effects are all those screens having on your teens?

If it’s not in their hands it’s in their pocket. Any free time they get, even if surrounded by friends to interact with, they’re looking at a screen. Texting, gaming, and social media have captured the attention of teenagers and they aren’t looking back. It’s easy to see the good that can come from teens having phones, tablets, and computers: a world of information at their fingertips, more communication with friends, and hours of fun and entertainment. What’s not so easy to see are the ways screen time is negatively affecting the physical and mental health of those most addicted.

How is screen time harming your children and what can you do about it? You’re about to find out.

Weight Gain

The average teenager spends more than seven hours a day staring at a screen. That’s nearly 50 hours a week! Studies show the more time kids spend sitting in front of a screen, the more weight they gain over time. Time spent on a screen is typically time not spent getting the 60 minutes of recommended physical activity each day (unless they’re using their screen for exercise apps, active video games, or music to listen to while they workout).

Depression and Anxiety

Today’s teens are more depressed and anxious than at any other time in history. Kids who spend more than seven hours a day on a screen have double the risk of depression and anxiety than those who only spend one hour a day.

Being on a screen usually means teens aren’t interacting with friends, being creative, using their talents, or playing a sport. As their minds are filled with unrealistic images, lies, and negative messages while watching television or browsing the Internet, teens are often left feeling less than and left out. While spending time on social media, kids compare their normal, boring lives to everyone else’s “exciting,” “fun,” and “beautiful” lives, making them feel insecure, unattractive, left out, and dissatisfied with life. Studies clearly reveal the negative effect social media has on the health of a young person’s psyche.

Lack of Sleep

The average teenager needs 10 hours of sleep each night for good health. Long after the lights are out, many teens are still wide awake on their phones. Even after the screens are turned off, the blue light that screens emit may be interfering with the body’s biological clock, hindering restful sleep.

Now What?

Is your teen spending too much time on his/her screens? Here are a few questions to help you decide. Does he spend more time on a screen than with other people? Can she function without a phone in her hand? Does he seem more anxious, depressed, or irritable after spending a lot of time on the phone?

Parents, it’s never too late to set new household rules on screen usage. Here are a few to help you get started.

1. Each night, eat dinner together as a family with the television off and cell phones in another room.
2. Keep televisions out of teenagers’ bedrooms.
3. One to two hours before bed, all cell phones must be returned to a designated spot in the home and kept out of bedrooms.
4. Television watching is allowed only on weekends.

Another great tip is to download an app that limits cell phone usage to a certain time limit each day. But remember, parents must practice what they preach. If you don’t want your teen texting while driving, on screens at bedtime, or with a phone at the dinner table, then you shouldn’t either.

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