Digital Detox: Helping kids strike a balance between the screens

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) -- We live in a world where digital media is almost everywhere we turn, even kids seem to be constantly connected.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), kids who overuse online media could be at risk for problematic internet use including internet gaming disorder, depression and trouble with real-life relationships.

The AAP says about four to eight percent of kids and teens have problems limiting their online use and that statistic gets worse as they age.

Childhood development experts say there are great rewards with technology, but it's all about balance and making sure your kids get a digital detox throughout the day.

"We're pretty structured with when we do our screen time and we definitely limit it," said Rebecca Edler, a mom of two kids.

Edler and her husband, Alex, have two kids ages four and five. They realized setting limits is best for their kids.

"The kids have, actually on the clock there's a piece of tape up there and they know when the time is on the tape, then it's iPad time and they can do 30 minutes and that's really what we focus on is no more than 30 minutes a day," said Edler.

The Edlers have complete control over what their kids are doing during their screen time. Mom and dad can see what's downloaded and the kids have no access to the internet.

"I believe it's important to keep a balance, so understanding the benefits and the risks because, I think if you just focus on the risks we'll all get really anxious, and there are great benefits of using screens, media; so I think we want to understand the benefits and be mindful," said Sawa Senzaki, assistant professor at the Department of Human Development and Psychology at UW-Green Bay.

Senzaki says there's not a lot of research yet to tell us how much kids are affected by too much screen time, but she says too much TV for example could cause sleep problems, obesity and attention issues; not to mention the instant gratification we get from technology.

"Addiction is a really good example. If children get pleasure, dopamine levels in their brain, the active hormones can get stimulated and if they are over stimulated, that's what they are going to want in the future, it's then hard to get something less, if you're always getting that pleasure kind of hormone," said Senzaki.

"When they are on it, they are 100 percent zoned in on what is going on and they're pretty much oblivious to everything else that's going on, which is a little scary," said Edler.

A good resource is which has some tips for parents such as putting together a media use plan, like the Edler family, and encouraging parents to teach kids the value of face to face communication.

Child development experts say where there are benefits with technology, there are also risks, so it's about striking that balance and finding what works for your family.

"I hope that they are going to know that there's a lot of different ways to find information, and it doesn't necessarily have to come from technology. They might be able to explore and do different experiences to get the same type of information first hand versus relying on somebody else," said Edler.