Screen Time Guidelines
Ever wonder how much screen time is appropriate for your child?
Many of us deal with the challenge of screen time and how much is appropriate for our children. Despite the fact that the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Institute of Health, and the Mayo Clinic urge parents to limit and plan screen time for their children, research reveals that most parents do not heed their advice, and it is getting worse each year. The Mayo Clinic emphasizes the costs of too much or poor quality screen time, can include
- behavioral problems,
- loss of social skills,
- lack of attention,
- drastic interference with daily life and family interaction, and
- disruption of children’s sleep cycles.
With this in mind, I thought it would be helpful to review current guidelines, as we all want to provide the healthiest environment that we can for our children.
The Mayo Clinic notes the type of programming is just as important, if not more so, than the amount of screen time. The table below draws upon the Mayo Clinic and American Academy of Pediatrics set of guidelines for screen time.
- Infants (0-18 months): Screen time: none
- 2-5 years: Screen time: 1 hour per day
- 6 years or older: Less than 2 hours of entertainment
- Emphasize creative, unplugged playtime
- High quality viewing strongly recommended (PBS, etc)
- Can include shows encouraging movement, music and stories
- Cartoons frowned upon at this age where reality and fiction blur for children
- Prioritize productive use over entertainment use
- Preview apps, programs, and games before allowing child access
- Mentor them on use rather than ban it
- Cover risks: bullying, sexting, predators, advertising
- Use parental locks/controls as needed
One of the keys the AAP suggests is that children watch their parents for cues, and this includes technology use. If we tell our children to unplug yet we are always on our phones or other devices, our advice will have deteriorating utility over time.
Another key is keeping screens out of the bedroom. It allows easier monitoring of screen use, but it also helps avoid computer or screen use when they are trying to shut down for the night. In their teenage years, if they need to work late, blue light blocking glasses can help if your adolescent has trouble moving into their sleep cycle.
Let’s not rely on screens to occupy our children! It’s easy to think that you are providing them with educational apps, etc. However, unplug them and let them learn to wonder and be creative, remembering nothing beats quality time with Mom and Dad!
Melinda Bray, Ed. D.
The Hillsboro School
If you want more information, the AAP recommends the Family Media Plan tool, which you can access at healthychildren.org.