It’s no secret that kids today get way too much screen time — whether that be in front of a tablet, smartphone, laptop or good old fashioned television. Access to technology determines how much they use it, and more use can lead to worse outcomes in education and health.
According to a study conducted by the University of Iowa, allowing a child to have a TV or video game system in their room is associated with a host of negative effects. Kids with TVs in their rooms don’t sleep as much, read less and spent less time doing other activities.
“When most children turn on the TV alone in their bedroom, they’re probably not watching educational shows or playing educational games,” said Douglas Gentile, lead author of the study. “Putting a TV in the bedroom gives children 24-hour access and privatizes it in a sense, so as a parent you monitor less and control their use of it less.”
Kids who have TVs and video game systems in their rooms were also more likely to watch and play violent content, which led to more aggressive behavior. An estimated four out of five households have a device that can be used to play video games, and around half have a dedicated video game console.
Researchers tracked kids over periods of 13 to 24 months and found those that had TVs or video game consoles in their rooms had higher total screen time than kids who did not have bedroom media. More screen time is associated with worse grades in school, a higher body mass index and possible addiction to video games.
According to Gentile, kids now spend an average of 60 hours a week in front of a screen. More than 40 percent of kids between the ages of 4 and 6 have a TV in their room.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, heavy media use in preschoolers can set the stage for future health problems like weight gain later in childhood. In 1970, kids started regularly watching TV around 4 years old. Now, they are repeatedly exposed as early as 4 months old.