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Seattle Children's studying importance of limiting screen time

Researchers at Seattle Children's are studying the effects of screen time on a child's brain development and physical health. Sponsored by Seattle Children's.

Screens are everywhere these days. They can be useful, entertaining, and they have become a big part of our lives. You're reading this on a screen now. 

But for adolescents with developing minds, limiting screen time should be a priority. 

The "Fit 5 for Kids" program is designed to help reduce screen time for Latino children.

Seattle Children’s, who sponsored this story, is studying the Fit 5 for Kids program to see if it can help Latino children who are at risk for obesity and related chronic diseases.

“There's so many different types of technology out there. It's almost hypnotic,” explains Seattle Children’s research coordinator, Roger Goosey.

Cellphones, tablets and TVs have a big impact on the activity level of young children.

“We're saying what other activities can you be doing? And we're teaching them to go outside and play with their friends. Talk to your family during dinner. Don't have that tablet around,” says Goosey.

The Fit 5 for Kids program aims to get kids fit by age 5 by reducing screen time and replacing it with good study and play habits at an early age.

“They're at an age where they're like little sponges. Anything that you tell them is getting absorbed. Anything that they're learning will stick to them,” says Jennifer Salgado, a Seattle Children’s clinical research associate, who says the kids take the messages they learn at school back home to their families.

“The children will say, my mom watches a lot of TV. And then when I hear that, it's like, OK, well we're going to have a talk with your mom. And we need to reduce her screen time, and they get really excited about that,” explains Salgado.

The teachers and program researchers know the difficulty parents of these kids face in raising a family and hope that what they learn from this study will provide support, so that as they grow older, they will be better prepared for success as young adults.

“Parents play a big role in this. They’re the front line. So we hope that also the information we share with them, they're taking it in and they're leading by example," says Salgado. "So hopefully they reduce their screen time too, so their child can see, well, my mom's not on the phone all the time or my mom's not watching too much TV. Let me go sit with my mom and see what she wants to do today."

She continued, "If we get them when they're young and reminding them of all these activities they can do, maybe they take that with them to kindergarten all the way to elementary school and middle school."

The Seattle Children’s study will compare the active program with another preschool that isn’t trying to reduce screen time.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children from birth to 18 months avoid all use of screens.

Children 2 to 5 years of age should only have one hour per day of high-quality programming with a parent to help explain what they’re watching and how it relates to the world.

Older children should have limits placed with managed content that should never interfere with sleep or physical activities.

Seattle Children's sponsored this story.