Screen time is a largely debated topic between parents, educators, and pediatricians alike. The amount of screen time versus the quality is another debated topic. Whether you let your child watch endless cartoons or none at all, some parental guilt is bound to creep up. There can be a balance! Every family is unique, and the decision falls with parents deciding what’s right for their child, but there are some studies out there to help guide us.
The American Association of Pediatricians recommendations for screen time are:
- No screen time for children under 18 months
- 18 and 24 months limited to watching educational programming with a caregiver
- 2 – 5 years old, the limit is 1 hour per day
- 6 – 18 years old have a limit of up to 3 hours per day
With the average usage exceeding the recommendations, children usually spend 4-6 hours at ages 8-12 and teenagers are on devices nearly 9 hours per day! As technology continues to advance, it’s easy to see why children are growing up attached to screens, but there are tips to encourage healthy habits that can be educational and safe.
Quality Screen Time
Studies have linked poor quality screen time to obesity, irregular sleep schedules, and behavioral problems among other issues, so it’s important to make sure if your child has screen time; it is quality content. A point to keep in mind is regularly monitoring what your child is watching and playing. While we can’t always be right by their side, especially as children get older, there are things we can do to ensure our children are getting quality screen time.
- Preview all programs, apps, and games to determine if it is age appropriate before allowing your child to view it.
- Look for interactive games or programs that children can use their imagination and problem-solving skills on rather than just watching the screen and swiping away.
- Use parental controls to block and filter the internet content and usage.
- Always check in with your child and ask questions about what they’re watching or playing.
Sometimes, as careful as we are, our children are exposed to content we wouldn’t approve of. When that happens, we can use that time to discuss with them why it’s important to stick to the screen time guidelines you’ve given them and encourage critical thinking in those situations.
It’s important to set limits for screen time, especially when it interferes with schoolwork, family time, or socialization with peers.
- Have tech-free time such as at mealtime or one night a week
- Make unplugged, unstructured playtime a priority
- Keep screens out of the bedroom or set limits to put the screens away an hour before bedtime
- Use apps that control and monitor the length of time a child can play or watch the screen
- Lead by example and limit your own screen time!
It is up to us to keep our children safe when using devices and create healthy habits with what they watch. Having open conversations and setting up rules that everyone in the household follows is a way to set your child up for future success. Screens can be a really great tool for learning and playing as long as you monitor the content it exposes your child to. And as long as there are plenty of other hands-on activities throughout the day, too!
Here are a few great apps for kids!
ABCmouse.com – Fun story-based videos, activities, and quizzes! This app is geared towards kids 2-8 years old. This is subscription based but offers a free trial so you can see if it’s a good fit for your child!
Quick Math Jr. – Making math fun and interactive! This app is available for free on iOS with optional in-app purchases.
Starfall ABC’s – A great app for early literacy skills! For children grades K-3. Free on both Android and iOS.
Duolingo – For children looking to learn a new language, this app is wonderful. It is subscription based starting at $9.99 a month!
YouTube Kids – Just like the YouTube we watch, but a little more controlled with kid’s content! It is still important to monitor your children, but YouTube Kids can be a great alternative to the regular app for watching fun videos and songs!
Screen time can beneficial if monitored for quality content and used in moderation.
My name is John Haber. I’m a Pediatric Occupational Therapist and the founder of Nogginsland. I became a COTA in 2003, and then went back to school much later, receiving my Master’s Degree in OT from Mercy College in New York in 2016.
Over the years, I’ve worked with a variety of populations in different settings, from school districts, to developmental disability centers, to children’s hospitals.