By William Cramp Fit Flyer reporters | Be careful how much time you spend with your phone, laptop, and other devices, according to Dr. Dan Taylor, a pediatrician at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children.
In a recent interview with the Fit Flyer, he said that too much screen time can affect a person’s brain because they not interacting with other people. This is particularly true for babies and young children. They need to use their brains to learn language, play, and discover the world around them, Dr. Taylor said.
Elementary students also need to limit their screen time and avoid mindless scrolling. Dr. Taylor said you can go down a “rabbit hole,” and you haven’t accomplished anything.
The following questions and answers are from the Fit Flyer’s recent interview. They have been lightly edited for space and clarity.
Question: How much time should people spend on screens?
Dr. Taylor: If you’re under 18 months old, you should have no screen time whatsoever, unless you are talking to a grandparent or somebody you can’t visit. For kids between 18 months and 2 years old, they can have a little screen time to watch something like Sesame Street. But an adult should sit right next to them and talk to them about what’s on the screen. From ages 2 to 5, kids should spend no more than one hour a day on screens. For kids in elementary school, your family should help you decide how much screen time is reasonable. For instance, one or two hours during the school week may be reasonable.
Question: Do phones and laptops affect the brain differently?
Dr. Taylor: There isn’t a huge difference. They are equally bad if they are used too much.
Question: What can social media do to a kid’s brain?
Dr. Taylor: Social media have “intelligent programs” built into their systems that learn what you are interested in. Then you get more of that type of information. You keep clicking and scrolling. You are going down a “rabbit hole” and the next thing you know, it’s
an hour later. You wonder “where did that hour go? Did it make me a better person? Did it really help me.” I worry about social media because it gets you away from the real world.
Question: What do you think kids should avoid doing on their devices?
Dr. Taylor: You definitely don’t want to be on it too long. And you don’t want to download stuff without asking your parents or grandparents, because there are a lot of programs out there that are not good for anybody.
Question: What advice do you have to help kids and families spend less time on their phones?
Dr. Taylor: My advice is to parents first. They need to limit their time. They need to be a good role model. If a parent is on their phone all the time, it’s not fair for them to tell you not to be on your screen.
Illustration by Yarilis, eighth grade, Catholic Partnership Schools.