Are Your Kids Negatively Impacted By Their Screen Media Use?

by , M. Ed., Priceless Parenting (sign up for monthly parenting newsletter and receive 20+ printable charts for kids and parents)

Screen media continues to play an increasingly important role in our children’s lives. Common Sense Media researched media usage among more than 2,600 kids ages 8 to 18 in 2015. They report “It's not your imagination -- media use is off the charts. Teens use an average of nine hours of entertainment media per day, and tweens use an average of six hours, not including time spent using media for school or homework.”

Watching TV and listening to music are the top two activities for both tweens and teens. Primarily kids are absorbing the messages and music created by others. Only 3% of their time is spent on content creation.

Boys and girls differ in their media use. Teen boys average 56 minutes per day playing video games compared to teen girls who average 7 minutes per day. Teen girls are more interested in social media spending about 40 minutes more a day on average than boys.

Clearly digital media, from old fashioned TVs to iPhones and iPods, plays a significant role in our kids’ lives. How do you know if your kids are being negatively impacted by their screen media use?

kids using screens

Problematic Activities Involving Screen Media

One area of concern is around what your children are doing when they are using media. When you do not monitor what your kids are watching or doing online, you are unable to provide guidance.

Unfortunately kids get in trouble in various ways when online. Some potential problems to watch for include:

  • Sharing personal details like name, address, school, birthdate, current location
  • Sharing emotional struggles in a public way
  • Sending naked pictures of themselves through texting or email
  • Watching porn
  • Video chatting with strangers
  • Listening to music that promotes values your family does not support
  • Participating in anonymous sites or apps that are prone to bullying and being bullied
  • Putting you at risk of a lawsuit by downloading illegal movies or songs
  • Learning about ways to inflict harm on themselves
  • Spending your money on virtual or real merchandise that you have not approved
  • Sharing their passwords with their friends
  • Giving personal information in response to a phishing scheme
The possibility of your kids engaging in inappropriate media activities increases when they are with their friends. What are your policies around digital devices when friends are over? Do you allow kids to keep their digital devices when they are at your house for a sleepover? How do you monitor what they are doing? Discuss your rules ahead of time with your own children so they know what to expect and what will happen if the rules are broken.

Problems Caused By Too Much Screen Media

Kids love screens. So why does the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend limiting entertainment screen time for children and teens? Excessive screen time interferes with social, emotional, and physical development. If your child exhibits some of the signs below, it’s time to put some limits on screen time.

Social and Emotional

  • Prefers spending time on screens to doing things with family or friends
  • Experiences difficulty making and keeping friends
  • Has angry outbursts when it’s time for the screen to go off
  • Acts irritable or discontent when not using digital items
  • Lacks concern or empathy for others

  • Has difficulty initiating or participating in conversations
  • Regularly misinterprets non-verbal social cues
  • Texts instead of talking in situations where face-to-face communication would be better

  • Has difficulty focusing on the present moment when not using a screen
  • Declining grades in school, missing school, dreading school
  • Talking and thinking obsessively about the digital activity
Physical Development

  • Withdrawing from sports and outside play, being physically active less than two hours/day
  • Losing sleep due to gaming, texting
  • Gaining weight to the point of being overweight or obese
  • Developing health issues such as Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, eye problems, backaches
When you realize your children's media usage is having a negative impact, you need to set some limits. Discuss with your kids what limits are reasonable and how your family plans to enforce those limits.

Preventing problems in the first place is far easier than fixing them later on. If you’re struggling to set healthy limits, learn how to do it in Priceless Parenting’s online parenting classes or get help through personal coaching.

About Kathy Slattengren

Kathy Slattengren

Parenting expert Kathy Slattengren, M. Ed., is dedicated to supporting parents in doing their best parenting. She helps families create homes where everyone feels accepted, heard, respected and appreciated.

Parents and teachers from across the United States to Australia have been helped through Priceless Parenting's:


online parenting classes

parenting articles


Raising Kids Who Blossom book

Do you want to print out this article?
A PDF version is available for printing.