Screen Time and Media Use

Screen Time Guide for Children

As a pediatrician and a parent to young children, I spend a lot of time thinking about “screen time” and a considerable amount of effort at home these days trying to practice what I preach. It is certainly not easy, but limiting your children’s screen time is a responsible and important aspect of parenting, as we know excessive screen time can have potential negative impacts on both their physical and mental well-being (much as it can to our own!)

The AAP breaks down their guidelines for screen time limits by age, especially for the preschool age children. In children under 2, it is advised to avoid digital media use except video-chatting. In the 2-5 year age group, screen time should be limited to 1 hour daily of high-quality programming (avoid fast-paced, distracting and violent content) and preferably the majority of the time, you are watching with them. Beyond age 5, the recommendation is to limit screen time to 2 hours, excluding time spent doing homework. For all ages, but particularly the youngest, it is best to avoid streaming content that you have not previewed or specifically selected and make sure that features like auto-play are turned off to avoid endless, break-free entertainment.  Common Sense Media has useful reviews and resources to help you choose appropriate programming.

Each family has to come up with their own “media use plan” and then remember to communicate the rules to other caregivers, such as nannies or grandparents so that they can be followed consistently. A few words of advice to help limit screens :

  • Keep bedrooms, mealtimes, and parent-child playtimes screen-free for children and parents and stop using screens at least 1 hour before bedtime.
  • Lead by example- set your own screen time limits and do your best to stick to them, using “do not disturb” can help remind you to not pick up your phone unnecessarily.
  • Foster interests in non-screen-related hobbies, such as reading, drawing, playing a musical instrument, or engaging in other creative activities. Make sure they have access to “entertainment” that is not on a screen.
  • Promote physical activities and outdoor play. Encourage your children to engage in sports, go for a bike ride, or play in the park. This not only limits screen time but also contributes to their overall well-being.
  • Regularly communicate with your children about the importance of a balanced lifestyle that includes various activities beyond screens.

To start the discussion or to create a family media plan, you can use the AAP’s online tool. In addition, or alternatively, some families find it helpful to manage their family with parental control apps, such as OurPact or Screen Time. For better or for worse, we are all in this one together! Please feel free to reach out with any questions. Good luck!

Read Also: Media, Screen Time and Young Minds

Jackie Phillips, MD, March, 2024

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