A friend of mine recently punished his 9-year-old by taking away screen time for a whole month. Professionally, I tend to recommend that loss-of-privilege punishments last no more than 24 hours except for the most startling of misbehaviors, but, blessedly for both of us, my friend didn’t ask my opinion.
When I did inquire as to how things were going (sympathetic that, for many parents, the only time which they have any peace is when their children are in front of a screen), he answered gleefully: “It’s going great!! It’s only been a week and HE IS A CHANGED CHILD! He’s happier, more helpful, less like a slug! Now when we tell him to stop whatever he is doing and come sit for dinner, he doesn’t drag his feet away from some dumb video game, but literally bounds right over. He’s a delight!”
New research published online this month in JAMA Pediatrics suggests that, indeed, limiting screen time can result in a cascade of positive effects.
In their study, Douglas Gentile, PhD, and colleagues looked at a group of third, fourth, and fifth graders who were enrolled in an obesity prevention program. They were screened on total screen time use and – most importantly – amount of parental monitoring of that screen time. “Parental monitoring” was defined in the study as a combination of how much a parent limited screen time as well as actively discussed the content of anything that was viewed with their child.