Parents, teens struggle to balance screen time with real life

Like many 16-year-olds, Elliot Willner of Atlanta spends a lot of time on his screens.

Elliott Willner says he spends anywhere from 6 to 8 hours a day playing videogames or on social media. (FOX 5 Atlanta)

"I think I average like 5 or 6 hours on my phone, or 1 or 2 hours on my computer, a day."

The Grady High School junior has gotten so good at electronic gaming, he convinced his school to create a varsity e-sports team.

His 11-year-old brother Miles seems to be following in his footsteps. 

But that doesn't always sit well with the boys' mother Allyson Willner.

Allyson Willner of Atlanta says she tries to limit her sons' screen time.

"I do see that screens as something that can become addictive," Willner says. "The more they play, the more they want to play, the better they get. So, they're kind of metering up, and that is kind of an addiction. I see it with Fortnite. I saw it with some of the other games Elliot played growing up."

So, why is screen time an issue?

Pediatrician and WebMD Medical Editor Dr. Hansa Bhargava says teens have never been more digitally connected, and surveys show they’re more stressed and anxious than ever.

"The question is, is it screens, or several other things," Dr. Bhargava asks. "The second question is, are we giving kids what they need in terms of buffers against all of this run-run-run activity, this crazy-busy life we all lead."

Elliott Willner says he spends anywhere from 6 to 8 hours a day playing videogames or on social media.

Those protective buffers, Bhargava says, are things like getting enough sleep, having family time, and being part of a community.

And, the holidays are a good time to get back to those basics.

"So, family time is already built into the holidays," Bhargava says. "So, you definitely want to maximize on that.  A great time to catch up on sleep, another buffer.  But it's also a great time to set rules and expectations with your expectations as well."

Elliott Willner says he spends anywhere from 6 to 8 hours a day playing videogames or on social media.

Elliott Willner says he used to get sucked into games for hours and hours, but he's learned to turn off the games, when he needs to.

"Nowadays, it's just, like, 'I've got things to do tomorrow.  I've got to get some sleep,'" he says.

Pediatrician Hansa Bhargava encourages family's to spend time together. (FOX 5 Atlanta)

But he's not ready to scale back on social media, which he sees as a way to stay connected with his friends.

"My parents, and everyone, when they were my age, they spent hours talking to their friends on the phone," Willner says.  "I spend hours on Snapchatting my friends.  I don't see a difference."

Elliot Willner, 16, spends about 6-8 hours a day on his computer or smartphone.