East Texas parents, doctors say kids spend too much time in front of TV

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Kids spend more than 30 hours a week in front of some type of electronic screen. During "screen-free week," East Texas doctors and parents are encouraging their children to take a break from things like video games and cell phones.

East Texas News talked to some parents who practice "screen-free" time year round.

Kids will be out of school soon for summer vacation, which means lots of free time that many will spend on the computer or in front of a TV. However, health experts and parents alike want them to start spending more time focusing on healthier activities.

"I believe that kids definitely need some down time, and they need time to themselves; they need time with their family and they need time where they aren't on a screen," April Wallace, a Lufkin mother of three boys, said.

In order to decrease screen time, Dr. Debra Burton feels children need rules to follow each day.

"As a parent it's our job to provide our kids with guidelines," Burton said. "And you know, they're going to play more video games; they're going to spend time on social media or texting their friends. But I think it's important to encourage them to still have outside activities."

Wallace does not have cable at home, which leaves more time for her sons to spend reading.

"As a parent we do have a responsibility of monitoring, and limiting, and putting boundaries around screen time for our kids," Wallace said.

Health problems can develop if a child has way too much screen time.

"Well, I think it can actually lead to an addiction and dependence maybe more than an addiction, where if you take it away, they will really … you'll see a significant mood change," Burton said.

"It makes their eyes grow longer from the strain of looking at something up close all these screen time hours," Dr. Mark Wiedenfeld said.

Many parents feel cell phones and televisions are becoming babysitters for children, and they're hoping this summer, children will spend their free time being more proactive.

The Academy of Pediatrics in East Texas recommends each week kids spend one hour of screen time per year of age. For example: A seven-year-old should spend one hour per day watching, which equals seven hours a week.

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