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Debbie JohnsonWriterUniversity of Missouri ExtensionPhone: 573-882-9183Email: JohnsonD@missouri.edu
Published: Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Sara E. Gable, 573-882-4628Robin Gammon, 573-884-0971
COLUMBIA, Mo. – Too much screen time could be robbing our children of many of the joys of childhood: talking and playing with friends, daydreaming or getting lost in a good book.
There’s a concern that children have more interest in spending time with screens and less time with other people, says Sara Gable, state specialist in nutrition and exercise physiology for University of Missouri Extension.
“People aren’t talking to each other, but rather using screen-type devices to interact,” Gable said.
Time spent with screens carries health risks too. According to the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, excessive screen time is linked to poor school performance, childhood obesity and attention problems.
Concerns about screen time used to center on television, but advances in technology have expanded that to include video games, computers, tablets, e-readers and smartphones. “And the number of screen devices keeps growing,” Gable said.
According to a 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation study, children ages 8-18 spend an average of 7 1/2 hours per day with media devices.
Robin Gammon, program manager for MU Extension’s Stay Strong, Stay Healthy program, suggests that families evaluate the amount of time they’re spending with devices and consider alternative activities.
“Get out with your family or friends, be physically active, go for a walk, play with your kids outside or have a picnic,” Gammon said.
Gammon says children are missing opportunities to improve their social skills.
“Children playing with each other gives them the chance to learn on many different levels,” she said.
The convenience of technology can gradually overtake other important aspects of living and learning.
“It’s important for people to be conscious of how much time they spend with devices,” Gable said. “What’s more important? Staring at a screen or spending time with family and friends?”
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