– says Dr. Timothy Fong, M.D., addiction psychiatrist
The American Medical Association (AMA) reports that 5 million American kids are addicted to video games. In fact, if you add the time some children and teens spend in front of a screen -- TV, computer, cell phone or video game -- it equals more hours than anything else in their lives except sleep! And that begs the question: if they spend so much time plugged in, what are they missing out on?
Sabrina and her brother Ruben are fighting over the family computer. At the same time, their younger brother Daniel is playing video games with a friend.
“It’s just fun killing other people and stealing their stuff,” says Daniel, 8.
Sister Alinna waits to watch her favorite program on the big-screen TV.
“I dream about watching TV, and I watch Sponge Bob in my head,” says Alinna.
Four kids in one family who love anything with a screen.
“It’s just nowadays it seems like they’re a lot lazier and just want to sit on the tube and on the phone all the time,” says Harry Delano, the children’s father.
In fact, researchers at the University of Montreal found that one-third of teens spend about 40 hoursa week in front of a screen. For all those hours, what are the kids not doing? Experts say they’re not reading, studying, exercising or even just talking with other people.
“Instead of using that time to become an adult, by learning how to talk adults, learning how to talk to women, learning how to talk to men, learning how to figure out what they want to do with their lives -- those are hours that are lost, that can never really be regained,” says Dr. Timothy Fong, M.D., addiction psychiatrist.
Yolanda has tried to limit the time her children spend in front of a screen.
“Well, my mom gives me an hour on Myspace, but I usually do like three hours -- if they don’t notice,” says Sabrina, 16.
“Even though I get frustrated with it, I allow it to happen because that’s what makes her happy,” says Yolanda.
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Tips for Parents
Experts suggest parents limit children’s total screen time to no more than one to two hours of quality programming per day. (CDC)
Following are 10 tips for parents to help their children make a painless transition from couch potato to a physically and pro-socially active child: (CDC)
Remove television sets from children’s bedrooms.
View television programs with children and discuss the content.
Use the VCR to show or record high-quality, educational programming for children.
Suggest several options for positive physical and pro-social activities that are available through local park districts, schools and community programs.
Recommend pro-social activities, such as volunteering at the Humane Society, local nursing homes, special-needs camps, etc.
Encourage alternative activities for children, including hobbies, athletics and creative play.
Form coalitions including libraries, faith-based organizations, and neighborhood groups to help provide physical and social environments that encourage and enable safe and enjoyable physical activity, including new sidewalks, safe parks and keeping close-to-home physical activity facilities open at night.
Ensure that appropriate activity options are available for disabled children.
Serve as a good role model; be active physically, and be available and interested when your children are viewing television and surfing the Internet in the home.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)