Kids and Screen Time: The Parent’s Guide

January 22, 2020

Screen time. It’s an often talked-about topic for parents, especially because it can go both ways. On one hand, some screen time is beneficial for development for kids older than two, while too much screen time has been linked to issues like obesity, irregular sleep, behavioral problems, loss of social skills, violence, and less time for necessary play. 

So, how much screen time is too much for kids? In the following article, we’ve assembled some research to help you define screen time for your kids and enforce limits effectively.

How Much Screen Time Should My Child Have?

  • Birth-18 months: No screen time is recommended at this age.
  • 18-24 months: Screen time should be supervised and limited to an hour or less.
  • 24 months to five years: Screentime says that this recommendation is similar to the recommendation for 18-24 month-olds, but with an added tip … help your kids make real-world connections with the material they’re viewing. Ask them what screen-based things remind them of in the real world, and how events and actions on the screen make them feel.
  • Six years to preteen: It’s advised that you keep screen time under two hours a day.
  • Preteen to teen: At this point, it’s less important to limit the number of hours they’re in front of a screen; it’s more important to monitor what’s being shown on the screen and figure out what’s appropriate and what isn’t.

How to Establish Screen Time Rules with Kids

There are a few ways to help set boundaries when it comes to screen time and your kids:

  • Set a good example: If they see you on your computer and smartphone all day long, they’ll be less obliged to stick with screen time limits.
  • Establish screen-free zones: Pick a few rooms in your house where screens are not allowed. For instance, the bathroom and the dining room at dinner time.
  • Explain the dangers: This is important for older kiddos, especially. If they hear a good reason for limited screen time, they’re less likely to just blame it on you being “unfair.”

How to Manage Screen Time and Kids

  • Make it a group activity: Join your child in watching a video or playing an interactive game. If screen time is related to positive social interactions from a young age, it will make screen time an equally positive thing in the long run.
  • Research before you download: Read reviews and look through ratings before downloading apps for your child. If you have an older child, audit what they’ve downloaded by scrolling through their home screens.
  • Schedule non-screen time together: Arrange park playdates, time at the paint-your-own-pottery shop, or trips to Auntie Melanie’s house. Make sure that kids have plans away from their devices to help them limit overall screen time.
  • Leverage technology: Parents has a list of the best screen time apps for kids. Zift is one of those apps, and as Parents says, “We love this app because it goes further than just helping parents monitor screen time. Zift offers parental controls like instant reporting of online searches, updates on newly installed apps, and alerts if your child views inappropriate content.”

Like our take on kids and screen time? There’s more parenting advice and tips just like this on our blog.