Parents – if your kids are awake, more than likely, they’re plugged into some sort of electronic device, but you might not realize just how much. A new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that the average child between the ages of eight and 18 spends more than seven and a half hours a day with either a smart phone, computer, television, or other electronic device. We read an article about this in the New York Times and it quoted one parent who said they got their kid a smart phone, thinking it would help him in school. It turns out, he uses it about 2% for school and 98% for other stuff. Another kid in the article said he sends and receives about 500 text messages a day!

If you think that kind of media usage is affecting the children, you’re absolutely right. The Kaiser study found that the kids who use media the most use it at least 16 hours a day! The reason that's so scary is because kids who are constantly plugged in have behavior problems and lower grades. The kids using electronic devices 16 hours a day were more likely to report feeling bored or sad, getting into trouble, and not getting along with their parents. Those kids also say they’re not happy at school, and get C’s or lower on report cards.

However, Dr. Michael Rich from the Center on Media & Child Health says we need to stop arguing about whether it's good or bad for kids to be on these devices - because it's now a part of their world and it's not going away. So the question is then - how do we control it?  Here are a few suggestions.

  1. Some phone companies have programs to limit phone time. For example, AT&T Smart Limits lets you set limits on things like the number of texts and instant messages your kid can send or receive, who can and can’t call or text them, and the times of day when they can call or text.
  2. There’s also software that comes with timers that allow you to limit their tech time. For example, the Time-Scout Monitor lets you assign your kid a time allowance. It activates the device – be it a computer, television or videogame console - and starts a countdown on your kid’s time.