How much screen time is too much for children?

In this day and age, we are all glued to our smartphones and tablets.

Some of you might even be watching this story on a smart device right now. But the big debate is about when it’s appropriate to hand over the screen to children.

In so many ways, Elizabeth Squire is your average little girl in pigtails. She’s easily entertained on the family swing, and she’s tactile.

“She is, she’s just a crazy kid,” Ellen Squire said. “She loves to see how things work. She loves to take things apart.”

She loves piecing together puzzles. The 4-year-old girl also has autism, a diagnosis her mother, a pediatrician, predicted early on.

“You know, as the months went on, it became clear that the motor delays were a little more significant,” Squire said.

Elizabeth’s language hasn’t progressed either. And technology is something else that doesn’t help her communicative progress.

Squire said her daughter is a “screen addict.”

“If the screen comes out, she goes right for it,” Squire said. “She has a very good memory, and she will hunt for it if she knows it’s there.”

Elizabeth is not unique in that way.

Liz Bomhoff is an Oklahoma City-based speech language pathologist for children. Many of her patients have similar stories — an obsession with screen-time and households that have allowed it.

“I barely get through a speech session and I have 2-year-olds saying, ‘Mama phone. Mama phone,’” Bomhoff said.

Her clinical recommendation for children and smart devices is absolutely no exposure for children younger than 2.

“Research is showing that anything more than 30 minutes is starting to affect expressive language delays,” Bomhoff said.

She recommends no more than one hour a day for children ages 2 to 5. Even for high schoolers, tablet time should max out at two hours.”

“They’re losing the back and forth, back and forth from a tablet, which is only one-dimensional,” Bomhoff said. “There’s no expectation from the child to connect back with the tablet.”

Because of that, the Squires have cut back on screen time. While it’s impossible to say what are autistic delays versus screen exposure, Squire said there is definitely a disconnect on days Elizabeth is in front of a screen.

“She’s a little harder to deal with,” Squire said. “She doesn’t want to follow directions, engage and listen in to what you have to say. Doesn’t even assist in getting herself dressed.”

Bomhoff said as long as…

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