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Kids and Screen Time: How Much is Too Much?

Author: CHKD Sports Medicine
Published Date: Thursday, January 14, 2016

Today’s tweens and teens are spending more time than ever with some kind of technology at their fingertips. It’s hard to avoid. Texting, researching, social media, video games and the like are the new way of life for this generation, and the technology that we think will give them an edge up in school or keep them connected to their peers may be causing them more harm than good. And it’s not just the older kids who are locked into a screen – toddlers and even infants are spending increased time in front of a screen, and while the negative effects of screen time aren’t yet apparent for them now, the consequences will show as they get older.

Some statistics aren’t all that surprising: on average, 8-18 year olds spend 7 hours of screen time media per day1, and 29% of babies under the age of 1 are watching TV for 90 minutes.2 Research has linked increased screen time to some facts that may be surprising however. Here are some facts:

  • Time with screens is a significant risk factor for childhood obesity regardless of socioeconomic status.3
  • For each hour of television viewing per day, children consume an additional 167 calories.4
  • Bedroom TVs are associated with increased risk of obesity in children of all ages.5
  • Children who play active video games such as the Wii do not show an increase of physical activity.6
  • Screen time is linked to sleep disturbance in 6 to 12 year olds7, and irregular sleep patterns in children under three.8
  • For babies and preschool children, screen time is negatively correlated with time spent interacting with parents – time essential for learning.9
  • Older children and adolescents show increased psychological difficulties including hyperactivity, emotional and conduct problems, and difficulty with peers.10
  • Adolescents who spend 3 or more hours daily on a screen are at a high risk for poor homework completion, negative attitudes towards school, poor grades, and long-term academic failure.11
  • Increased screen time in sixth graders has been linked to blunted emotion recognition such as reading facial cues and nonverbal body language.12

Some of these facts are downright scary, and that is nowhere near an exhaustive list of the negative implications of screen time. One of the findings that is of particular salience is the blunting of emotion recognition. Instead of forming meaningful connections with peers via face-to-face conversations, kids are hiding behind technology, texting their friends from the refuge of their bedroom. And not only is technology encouraging isolation, but it’s encouraging sedentary isolation leading to obesity, decreased attention spans, and poor school performance.

For most of us, completely eliminating screen time from our lives is impossible as computers are essential for work, and more and more kids are sent home with online homework, so the big question is: how do we find the balance? One strategy may be to sit down as a family and decide how much time to spend with screen media every day, and then stick to that rule. Other ways may be to replace some of the screen time with an activity such as playing outside, joining a sport, going for a family walk, taking up a new active hobby, or finding a family gym. By reducing daily screen time the whole family will enjoy improved health, improved grades, improved behavior, and an improved quality of life!


          1.) Rideout, V. J., Foehr, U. G., & Roberts, D. F. (2010). Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds. Menlo Park, CA: Kaiser Family Foundation, 2.

          2.) Rideout, V. (2011). Zero to eight: Children’s media use in America. San Francisco, CA: Commonsense Media. Further analysis of original data published by Commonsense Media was conducted on October 4, 2012 by Melissa Saphir and Vicky Rideout at the request of this publication.

          3.) Wijga A. H., Scholtens S., Bemelmans W. J., et al. (2010). Diet, screen time, physical activity, and childhood overweight in the general population and in high risk subgroups: prospective analyses in the PIAMA birth cohort. Journal of Obesity 2010, Article ID 423296, 9.

          4.) Weicha, J. L., Peterson, K. E., Ludwig, D. S., et al. (2006). When children eat what they watch: Impact of television viewing on dietary intake in youth. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 60, 436-442.

          5.) Adachi-Mejia, A. M., Longacre, M. R., Gibson. J. J., Beach, M. L., et al. (2007). Children with a TV in their bedroom at higher risk for being overweight. International Journal of Obesity, 31(4), 644-651.

          6.) Baranowski, T., Abdelsamad, D., Baranowski, J., et al. (2012). Impact of an active video game on healthy children’s physical activity. Pediatrics, e636-e642.

          7.) Barlett, N.D., Gentile, D.A., Barlett, C.P., Eisenmann, J.C., et al. (2012). Sleep as a mediator of screen time effects on children’s health outcomes. Journal of Children and Media, 6(1), 37-50.

          8.) Thompson, D. A., & Christakis, D. (2005). The association between television viewing and irregular sleep schedules among children less than 3 years of age. Pediatrics, 116(10), 851-856.

          9.) Vandewater, E. A., Bickham, D. S., & Lee, J. H. (2006). Time well spent? Relating television use to children’s free-time activities. Pediatrics, 117(2), 181-191.

          10.) Page, A. S., Cooper, A. R., Griew, P., & Jago, R. (2010). Children’s screen viewing is related to psychological difficulties irrespective of physical activity. Pediatrics, 126(5), 1011-1017.

          11.) Johnson, J., Brook, J., Cohen, P., & Kasen, S. (2007). Extensive television viewing and the development of attention and learning difficulties during adolescence. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 161(5), 480-486.

          12.) Uhls, Y., Michikyan, M., Morris, J., Garcia, D., Small, G., Zgourou, E., and Greenfield, P. (2014). Five days at outdoor education camp without screens improves preteen skills with nonverbal emotion cues. Computers in Human Behavior, 39, 387-392.

About CHKD Sports Medicine

About CHKD Sports Medicine  CHKD's sports medicine program offers the most comprehensive care for your young athlete. From diagnosis and treatment to customized rehabilitation plans, we specialize in physical therapy and injury prevention programs for active children and teens. Our team is composed of pediatric orthopedic surgeons, sports medicine specialists, physician assistants, certified athletic trainers and pediatric sports medicine physical therapists.