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Experts speak: How much internet is okay for kids?

Sarah Kelsey is a lifestyle writer, editor and spokesperson based in Toronto. She was the editor of AOL/The Huffington Post Canada’s StyleList, Style and Living sites. Today, she's a freelancer writing for some of North America’s top pub...

setting limits

While signing online can be an invaluable experience for your children, spending too much time on the internet can actually be detrimental to their health. So, how much online time is too much time? We did some digging to find out.

Girl on internet

The stats


According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the amount of time children spend in front of a screen (the television or the computer) should be no more than one to two hours a day. But research shows, kids, on average, are spending more than four hours a day not only watching television, but also playing games online.

The worries over online time

There are some major health concerns surrounding the time children spend online. One involves eyesight. Researchers have found a link between staring at a computer and eye strain. What results, over time, can be everything from headaches to blurred vision and dry eyes.

Another major concern relates to obesity. Sitting in front of a computer is a sedentary activity; there is little to no motion involved. And the more time a child spends sitting in front of a computer screen, the less time they're apt to spend outdoors or exercising. The result could be a lower metabolic rate, which could lead to weight gain.

Safety matters too, an issue that was brought forward by Dr. Patrick J. McGrath, a clinical psychologist and a researcher in Canada, in a recent article on AboutKidsHealth?. He found the more time children spend online, the more likely they are to have their safety threatened through bullying, pornography, adware or identity theft.

Spending too much time online can also affect how well a child interacts with their peers; many online activities – including playing video games – are done in isolation.

What can be done

Generally speaking, the younger your child, the less time they should be spending in front a computer. Here are a few general tips on how you can start limiting their online time.

  • Try a weekday ban. During the week, schoolwork and post-school activities (like sports, a part-time job or socializing with friends) should take precedence, so start implementing a weekday ban on all things internet-based. The only exception? If your child needs to access some information online for a school project.
  • An hour of time online = an hour of playtime outside. If your child really enjoys playing a game online, it's okay to give them some internet time, just make sure it's not interfering with their studies or outdoor activities.
  • Set a good example. Children often replicate the behaviors of their parents, so if you really want your child to cut down on the amount of time they spend online, limit the time you spend in front of the computer too.

More ways to keep kids safe online

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