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Money Matters: Effects of too much screen time

Between YouTube, Fortnite and Netflix parents and teachers are fully aware children are spending too much time in front of a screen nowadays. But how long is too long?

The Wall Street Journal interviewed pediatrician Michael Rich looking for answers, and he said there are good reasons to be concerned. Rich is the director of Boston Children’s Hospital’s Center on Media and Child Health and the Clinic for Interactive Media and Internet Disorders.

He recommends parents not panic and only seek help when digital media starts preventing kids from doing normal activities, like sleeping and socializing. He also noted that the overuse of digital media is actually related to underlying conditions like anxiety or ADHD and that most cases of screen time addiction in children can be improved by treating whatever underlying psychological conditions they might have.  

Also instead of yelling or expressing hate toward the game or online videos, Rich recommends parents try the games or shows to better understand what these children are looking for, get to know their taste and gain their trust. 

Limiting screen time is a good idea, but screen time limits are not, since policing TV or game times can turn them into "forbidden fruit." Rich recommends parents take a look at a child's entire day instead, and fill it with other activities, such as eating dinner as a family, scheduling physical activities and listening to what they wish to prioritize as well. 

Rich also warned against using iPads or phones as electronic pacifiers or babysitters for young children and to always supervise what they have access to. 

He said the most important aspect of monitoring screen time is to maintain communication with kids since many parents are spending too much time on their phones as well. Rich strongly recommends creating device-free zones where no one in the family distracted by devices and work at communicating better with each other.