Now that school is out and summer is in full swing, kids may be tempted to spend more time in front of screens, such as tablets, smartphones and laptops. But experts say kids already spend too much time staring at screens — an average of seven hours a day, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The Academy recently updated its recommendations about how much time kids should spend on their devices, providing a full list broken down by age. They recommend screen time for children under 2 years old should be limited to video chatting and for those ages 2 through 5, limit screen time to only one hour a day. Kids 6 years and older can have more screen time but need an hour of exercise. No children should be in front of a screen an hour before bed.
Dr. Delaney Ruston of Stony Brook University Hospital, director of the film "Screenagers," says that when a child is engrossed in an iPad, tablet or similar device, "it releases a hormone in the brain, dopamine, that is so rewarding, kids want this more and more. And therefore when they are not on these highly stimulating screens, they actually can get really agitated."
To show just how absorbed in their screens kids can get, the Rossen Reports team staged a revealing hidden camera demonstration last year with the help of two moms.
Six-year-old Avery was so engrossed in her iPad that she didn't notice when her Mom, Jackie, put on silly glasses... and then a mustache. Even a bright blue wig on Mom wasn't enough to divert her eyes from her screen.
"It's alarming from the perspective that I don't know if there is a fire that she would know to get out of the house because she is so focused on it," Jackie said.
Six-year-old Cami was, if possible, even more oblivious as she stared at her screen, failing to notice when a giant plush camel appeared just feet away her. Nor did she notice big signs reading "HEY KIDS LOOK HERE"; her mother, Michelle, crashing cymbals together, or even her brother putting on a show as a clown.
"Did you see the clown?" TODAY national correspondent Jeff Rossen asked Cami after she was finally brought out her trance.
"Nope, not at all," Cami said. "Who was the clown?"
For years, experts have said kids should be spending less than two hours a day on media devices. Additionally, a new study from the American Academy of Pediatrics says increased screen time could delay speech in children under 2 years old.