Combat Screen Time With Outside Time


Family Health


By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder


My son is in his thirties now, but it seems like just yesterday he was a toddler. I was a new mom worrying about every little thing like what he was eating, what products I was putting on his skin and how much screen time he was getting and how this could potentially affect his development. The latter of these concerns I was fortunate to be able to really tackle. For one, living in Southern California, where the weather is pretty much beautiful all year, made it relatively easy for me to get him outside as much as possible and away from the television. Secondly, this was in the early to mid 90s when the world was less digital I guess you could say and kids were not expected to know how to use tablets and computers before they could even talk!

I really empathize with parents of young kids these days. You want your child to be technologically savvy but, of course, not at the expense of their overall development. Not to mention, sometimes you just need a break! All of us parents have been in those moments of frustration when our child is having a meltdown and we put them in front of a screen to pacify them. Whatever the case may be, give yourself some grace but also do your best to get your child outside.

A recent study involving Japanese children found evidence which showed that being exposed to more screen time at two-years-old is linked to poorer communication and daily living skills at the age of four. However, some of these effects appeared to be reduced when the children played outdoors. 

(According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), it is advised that children under the age of two not receive any screen time at all. In addition to this, the NIH reports that most American children spend about five to seven hours a day in front of a screen).

Outdoor play reduced some of the negative effects.

The study examined 885 children from when they were just 18 months to four-years-old. The researchers looked at the average amount of daily screen time when the children were two. They also analyzed the amount of time the children played outside when they were two years and eight-months-old (so when they were nearly three-years-old).

According to this Medical Xpress report discussing the study, the researchers assessed neurodevelopmental outcomes including communication, daily living skills and socialization.

"Although both communication and daily living skills were worse in 4-year-old children who had had more screen time at aged 2, outdoor play time had very different effects on these two neurodevelopmental outcomes," said Kenji J. Tsuchiya, lead study author and professor at Osaka University.

“We were surprised to find that outdoor play didn't really alter the negative effects of screen time on communication—but it did have an effect on daily living skills."

When it comes to daily living skills, the results revealed that more time playing outside could reduce the negative effects of screen time by almost 20 percent. 

“The researchers also found that, although it was not linked to screen time, socialization was better in 4-year-olds who had spent more time playing outside at 2 years 8 months of age,” reports Medical Xpress.

“These results are particularly important given the recent COVID-19-related lockdowns around the world, which have generally led to more screen time and less outdoor time for children."

The pandemic is not completely behind us.

I think this is a really important factor. The pandemic may seem well behind us, but it really has had lasting effects that we may need to be proactive about. I believe it is also important to acknowledge that the more screen time your child has, the more likely they are sedentary for longer periods of time. There is a childhood obesity epidemic in America, and encouraging children to get involved in sports and play outside is a great tool for combatting this serious issue. 

You can also garden with your children or take them to your local farmer’s market. Doing this will not only get them outside, but it also provides a great opportunity to show kids where healthy food comes from and why it is so important to eat such foods. 

Set a good example.

You may want to reduce your child’s screen time, but are you doing the same for yourself? Sure, excessive screen time may not affect your development as an adult, but it can certainly impact your health in regards to your sleep, how much physical activity you are getting on a daily basis and your mental health. Perhaps make the effort to watch less television during the evenings and on the weekends. Try to stay off your phone and be present, especially during mealtimes. It’s easy to think that a two-year-old or four-year-old will not notice if you are constantly on your phone or tablet, but I believe we don’t give babies enough credit for how much they really notice and absorb. 

For additional tips on raising healthy kids, check out these pH Labs blogs.

March is National Nutrition Month, and along with making sure your child eats plenty of fresh fruits and veggies, it is important to ensure that they are nutritionally balanced. A comprehensive nutrient test can determine any nutrient imbalances or deficiencies. If your child is not nutritionally balanced, their pediatrician can work with you on necessary dietary changes and if needed recommend quality supplements that are safe for children.


Enjoy your healthy life!


Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice. Please consult with your doctor or another competent healthcare practitioner to get specific medical advice for your situation.         


The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses, and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products, and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.    


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