SNCH doctors urge parents to limit screen time for children


Youngsters on Long Island are spending way too much time in front of screens, according to a survey performed by South Nassau Communities Hospital, and its doctors are urging parents to crack down on the habit for the sake of their children’s health.

South Nassau released the results of its poll, conducted this past April, at a May 10 news conference, which showed that children on Long Island and in New York City are spending an average of 3.41 hours per day on devices such as smart phones, tablets and television for non-academic purposes. Twenty five percent of the 600 parents surveyed said their attempts to reduce their children’s screen time proved successful.

“Parents are not doing enough to limit the amount of time their kids spend on devices,” said Dr. Warren Rosenfeld, chairman of pediatrics at South Nassau. Since 2016, he said, the American Academy of Pediatrics has warned that excessive screen time in young children could delay brain development. Rosenfeld encouraged parents to get their kids’ pediatricians involved in devising plans to cut back on screen use time, and added that young people do not stop growing until they are 25 years old. Rosenfeld sympathized that it is difficult for parents to step in considering how widespread device usage is — and that they sometimes double as educational tools — but hammered on the importance of monitoring the situation.

Rosenfeld noted that parents must be proactive the next time they see the “blue light coming out from under the sheets” from devices when they check on children in their bedrooms, and set ground rules as soon as possible in their development regarding when screens can be used and for how long.

In fact, the poll — the sixth in the hospital’s Truth in Medicine series — showed that 65 percent of children are spending three or more hours on screens, and 22 percent are fixated on their devices for five or more hours. An average of 3.9 hours were spent on non-academic purposes, according to South Nassau Spokeswoman Dana Sanneman. She added that 33 percent of children spent the most time on smart phones, 29 percent on tablets and 28 percent on television. Additionally, about half of the surveyed parents heard of recommendations on reducing their children’s screen time, with 36 percent noting that they had tried.

“It takes effort, it takes energy,” said Dr. Adhi Sharma, chief medical officer at South Nassau, adding, “but screens are not going away.” He noted that the typical Long Island family is a “busy household,” but pointed out that families are at least eating together on an average of 5.2 days of the week. Sharma said this is beneficial to kids’ communication skills, citing research showing children are more likely to perform better in school when they have dinner with their family. However, he said, “If you turn that TV on, even though you’re eating together, the benefits are lost.”

Other notable findings from the poll included revelations that children on Long Island have higher screen time usage than in New York City, and that parents there are more likely to turn to parental controls on devices. Additionally, the average household with children in both areas contains an average of three smart phones, 2.9 televisions, two tablets and 1.7 computers.