In the digital age, it is a persistent question for parents, especially among those raising younger kids: How much screen time is OK for a growing child?
This is certainly an important topic for parents to ponder as too much screen time has been linked to a range of problems in children. These can include increased risks for behavioral problems, obesity, insomnia, eye strain, headaches and neck and back ailments.
Of course, screen time is not all bad. When used wisely, it can serve as a powerful educational tool. Additionally, it can be a great way to keep kids entertained when a parent needs some time to rest or to get tasks accomplished.
So how much screen time is considered acceptable and healthy for kids? Consider these guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics:
- 0 to 18 months: For children younger than 1.5 years old, screen time should be kept to a bare minimum, according to the AAP’s recommendations. There is one exception to this rule, though. The AAP guidelines actually encourage video-chatting with family members as this can help build stronger family relationships.
Otherwise, pediatricians suggest healthy alternatives to screen time for children in this age group, including play time, reading with an adult, and parent-child or child-sibling interactions.
- 18 to 24 months: The period between 1.5 and 2 years old can be a good time to introduce children to screen time, the AAP says, but with considerable limitations. The group’s guidelines suggest starting kids off at this age with high-quality children’s programming and educational content, as well as age-appropriate educational apps. Further, the doctors’ group recommends that parents join their children in absorbing this content at this age as this is how toddlers learn best.
- 2 to 5 years: At this age, according to the AAP guidelines, parents can begin introducing their children to limited amounts of recreational screen time beyond educational content. Regarding the limitations, the group suggests that children get no more than one hour of screen time on weekdays and no more than three hours on each day of the weekend.
- 5 years and older: Once a child reaches 5 years old, the AAP says, parents can use their discretion in deciding how much screen time is appropriate. Parents should be careful, though, to ensure their children’s screen time does not interfere with learning activities, peer and family relationships, regular social interactions, and healthy exercise and sleep habits.
Create a family media use plan
For parents seeking to take a strategic approach to their family’s media consumption, the American Academy of Pediatrics offers an online tool on its healthychildren.org website for establishing healthy media habits in the household. Using checklists that can be customized for each child in the family, the tool helps parents set a range of ground rules for screen time in the home. Areas addressed include
- screen-free zones
- screen-free times
- device curfews
- the benefits of balancing online and offline time
- digital safety
- tips for getting enough sleep and exercise
Combine this tool with FTC’s Wi-Fi app to further strengthen parental controls. Also check out Experience IQ, which has among its features the ability to manage the content and hours of use for connected devices. It also features “Safe Search,” which activates Google and Bing search engine filters automatically. Another FTC offering is Protect IQ, which adds several layers of security by the blocking of any malicious and suspicious activity and preventing unknown devices from accessing user’s network.
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