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South Nassau Truth in Medicine Poll: Sixty-Five Percent of Kids Spend 3 Hours or More on Screens a Day

- Twenty-two percent are glued to screens for five hours or more
- Nearly half of parents don’t even try to limit screen time

Posted: May. 10, 2018

Metro-area children are spending an average of 3.41 hours/day of screen time for non-academic purposes on an array of devices - smartphones, televisions, tablets and computers – and 22 percent of them are glued to the screen for five or more hours, according to South Nassau’s latest Truth in Medicine™ poll.

Sixty-five percent of children are spending three or more hours per day on such devices, the poll showed.

Only 25% of parents say their efforts to limit screen time for their children are very successful, according to the poll of parents in New York City and on Long Island. Sixty-two percent of parents said they do not use any parental control settings on their children's screen devices.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has warned that too much screen time – especially in young children – can delay cognitive, language, social and emotional development and possibly be a factor in childhood obesity. The Academy, for instance, recommends limiting screen time for children between two to five years of age to no more than one hour per day of high-quality programming.

But the poll results show that less than half of parents surveyed knew about these recommendations, and only 13% heard about them from their pediatrician.

The smartphone is the device eating up most of children’s non-academic screen time (33%), with the tablet (29%) and TV (28%) following close behind, the poll showed.
Nearly half of parents polled – 45 percent – said they don’t even try to limit the time their children spend on smartphones, tablets, computers and watching TV.

Fifty-one percent of parents of a child age 6 and under said they use parental controls to monitor their children’s screen time, but parental control drops significantly as a child ages. About seven in ten parents of metro-area children age 10 and under take measures to limit their children’s screen time, but only 36% of parents of a teen actively try.

“Parents are not doing enough to limit the amount of time their kids spend on devices. There are evidence-based studies that continue to show associations between excessive media use and delays in brain development, especially among small children,” said Dr. Warren Rosenfeld, chairman of pediatrics at South Nassau. “Pediatricians also need to do a better job of communicating the potential dangers of overuse of devices like smartphones, which are now everywhere. Pediatricians should urge parents to develop a family media plan with specific usage guidelines for each child and parent. Screen time should not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health.’’

Dr. Adhi Sharma, South Nassau’s chief medical officer and executive vice president, said the poll’s findings underline the importance of educating parents about the AAP’s screen time recommendations. He added that parents themselves need to set better examples for their children.

“There is a clear correlation between knowing about the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendations about screen time and using parental controls, restricting screen time and having dinner together,” said Sharma. “Smartphones and other devices obviously are essential now in most families, but we need to understand that while there are positive benefits, there can also be negative effects on healthy social development. Moderation is key. Discuss usage limits with your kids, limit your own usage, especially during ‘family time’ and stick to the plan you put in place.”

Other key findings from the poll include:

  • The average New York/Long Island household with children has 3 smartphones, 2.89 televisions, 2 tablets, and 1.65 computers
  • Only 7% use a desktop or laptop computer as their main screen for non-academic purposes. More than 90% of children prefer to spend their screen time on smartphones or tablets or in front of a TV.
  • Families with parents who restrict their children’s screen time or use parental controls are more likely to eat dinner together

The South Nassau Truth in Medicine Poll, sponsored by Bethpage Federal Credit Union, is a quarterly survey of 600 Long Island and New York City residents that aims to gather data about public attitudes on key public health topics and help spur public education to improve public health.

The poll shows that parents do make efforts to restrict screen time in younger children, but give up much control as their children age and find little success in their methods to limit screen time. A majority (51%) of parents of children age 6 and under use parental controls, compared to 47% of parents of a child age 7-10, 37% of a child age 11-13 and only 21% of parents of a child age 14-17. Parents who use control settings are more likely to restrict screen time, which directly correlates to children using less screen time per day.

“Kids emulate their parents. If you let smartphones dominate your life, your children will likely do the same,” said Dr. Rosenfeld. “Put your phones away during dinner. Turn off the TV. We have all been in restaurants where everyone in a family is on their phone. That is not healthy. Develop special times during the day – like dinner and bedtime – where devices are not allowed.”

“The South Nassau Truth in Medicine Poll is meant to shine a light on public health issues that deserve more attention,” said Richard J. Murphy, South Nassau’s president & CEO. “Smartphones are now ubiquitous in our society. They can have an impact on our children’s health.  The topic of screen time is timely and very relevant to communities we serve.”

This is South Nassau’s second public health poll of 2018. In January, the Truth in Medicine poll examined area residents’ usage and attitudes toward unregulated dietary supplements. In 2017, South Nassau completed four public health polls. The goal of the Truth in Medicine Poll is to educate the public about health issues so they can take better care of themselves and seek out appropriate medical care when needed.

“The statistics uncovered in the survey are startling and hopefully will motivate parents to follow the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendations by reducing their children’s screen time,” said Linda Armyn, senior vice president, corporate affairs, Bethpage Federal Credit Union. “Bethpage is proud to provide its support to South Nassau, which indisputably, continues to uncover data that is vital to our community’s health and well-being.  As always, we applaud South Nassau for their ongoing efforts.”

The South Nassau poll found slight variations of attitudes about screen time that at times broke down along geographical and racial lines. The poll found that:

  • Screen time usage among children is higher on Long Island than in New York City; usage is higher among children of color
  • Parents in New York City are slightly more likely to use control settings than on Long Island
  • White parents are more likely to restrict screen time than parents of color

For more information about the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendations on screen time, go to www.aap.org.

The South Nassau Truth in Medicine Poll, sponsored by Bethpage Federal Credit Union, was conducted via both landlines and cell phones from April 9-12 with 600 parents with at least one child under age 18 in New York City and on Long Island. A nationally recognized, independent polling firm, LJR Custom Strategies, which has offices in Washington, DC and New Orleans, LA., conducted the poll.

Designated a Magnet® hospital by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) for outstanding nursing care, South Nassau® Communities Hospital is one of the region’s largest hospitals, with 455 beds, more than 900 physicians and 3,500 employees. Located in Oceanside, NY, the hospital is an acute-care, not-for-profit teaching hospital that provides state-of-the-art care in cardiac, oncologic, orthopedic, bariatric, pain management, mental health and emergency services.

In addition to its extensive outpatient specialty centers, South Nassau provides emergency and elective angioplasty, and offers Novalis Tx™ and Gamma Knife® radiosurgery technologies.  South Nassau operates the only Trauma Center on the South Shore of Nassau County verified by the American College of Surgeons as well as Long Island’s only free-standing, 9-1-1 receiving Emergency Department in Long Beach. South Nassau is the only hospital on Long Island in 2018 to achieve Healthgrades America’s 100 Best Hospitals for Orthopedic Surgery™, Orthopedic Surgery Excellence Award™ and 5-star rating for Total Hip Replacement, and it was one of just two hospitals on Long Island to achieve Healthgrades 5-stars in Hip Fracture Treatment. South Nassau also is a designated Stroke Center by the New York State Department of Health and Comprehensive Community Cancer Center by the American College of Surgeons, and is an accredited center of the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Association and Quality Improvement Program. In addition, the hospital has been awarded The Joint Commission’s gold seal of approval for disease-specific care for hip and knee replacement, heart failure, bariatric surgery, wound care and end-stage renal disease. For more information, visit southnassau.org.