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As the world becomes more technologically advanced, screens have become an inescapable part of our daily lives. This is particularly true for children, who are born into a digital age. Although screens can be educational and support children’s social development, too much screen time can have negative effects. Understanding how to balance screen time for children is essential for their overall well-being.

Harmful Effects of Excessive Screen Time

Excessive and unregulated screen time can lead to several problems. According to the Mayo Clinic, these include obesity, inadequate sleep schedules, behavior problems, delays in language and social skills development, violence, attention problems, and less time spent learning​1​.

Age-Appropriate Screen Time

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends different screen time guidelines depending on the age of the child. For children younger than 18 months, the AAP discourages media use, except for video chatting. For children ages 18 to 24 months, if digital media is introduced, it should be high-quality and solo media use should be avoided. For children ages 2 to 5 years, the AAP recommends limiting screen time to one hour a day of high-quality programming.

As children grow older, these guidelines become less specific. For children aged 6 and older, the AAP suggests placing consistent limits on the time spent using media and the types of media consumed. Furthermore, parents should ensure that media consumption does not replace adequate sleep, physical activity, and other behaviors essential to health.

As children grow, a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work as well. You’ll need to decide how much media to let your child use each day and what’s appropriate. Remember, the quality of the media your child is exposed to is more important than the type of technology or amount of time spent​.

Quality Content

To ensure quality screen time, you can:

  • Preview programs, games, and apps before allowing your child to view or play with them.
  • Seek out interactive options that engage your child, rather than those that just require pushing and swiping or staring at the screen.
  • Use parental controls to block or filter internet content.
  • Make sure your child is close by during screen time so that you can supervise his or her activities.
  • Ask your child regularly what programs, games, and apps he or she has played with during the day.
  • When watching programming with your child, discuss what you’re watching and educate your child about advertising and commercials​

Avoid fast-paced programming, violent content, and apps with a lot of distracting content. Eliminate advertising on apps if possible, since young children have trouble telling the difference between ads and factual information​

Screen Time Rules and Limits

Establish clear rules and set reasonable limits for your child’s use of digital media. Here are some tips:

  • Encourage unplugged, unstructured playtime.
  • Create tech-free zones or times, such as during mealtime or one night a week.
  • Discourage use of media entertainment during homework.
  • Set and enforce daily or weekly screen time limits and curfews, such as no exposure to devices or screens one hour before bedtime​.

Digital Literacy and Online Behavior

It’s also important to encourage digital literacy. Talk to your child about the situations that could occur and the behavior you expect. Help your child understand that media is made by people with the objective of capturing as much of your time as possible. Teach your child appropriate online behavior, such as not to send or share anything online that he or she would not want the entire world to see for eternity​. Channel Lab does not allow uploading of any kind and does not show comments.

Read more from American Academy of Pediatrics