A Guide to Screen Time for Your Kids Based on Age

As we navigate the complex landscape of modern family life, technology is becoming an integral part of our daily routines. It offers numerous opportunities for communication, education, and entertainment.

Yet, with its increasing presence, concerns arise about the impact of screen time on the physical, emotional, and cognitive development of children.

As parents, we want to ensure our children benefit from the wealth of opportunities offered by modern technology while minimizing the risks and potential harms associated with excessive screen time.

Amidst the constant hum of tablets, smartphones, and televisions, parents are left to grapple with an important question: how much screen time is too much?

Infants (0-18 Months): The First Glimpse of the Screen

In the first year and a half of a child’s life, their brain is developing rapidly. It’s during this time that parents need to be most cautious with screen exposure.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) recommends that children under 18 months should avoid screen time altogether. However, there is one key exception: video chatting along with an adult. This allows them to stay connected to an out-of-town parent, for example.

Face-to-face interactions, physical play, and exploration should take precedence to help build a strong foundation for cognitive and emotional development.

Toddlers (18-24 Months): Introducing Screen Time with a Purpose

Between 18 to 24 months, the AACAP suggests that parents may begin to introduce screen time. This should be done with caution and guidance.

Choose high-quality programming and watch it together with the child. At this age, parental involvement is crucial to facilitate learning and understanding, as children at this stage still rely heavily on adults to make sense of the world around them.

Preschoolers (2-5 Years): Limiting Screen Time

For children aged 2 to 5 years, the AACAP recommends a maximum of one hour of
non-educational screen time per day. This includes watching age-appropriate content, playing games, or engaging in interactive digital activities.

It’s also important for parents to participate, as discussing and interacting with the content can support a child’s learning and comprehension.

Regular breaks and active play should be encouraged to ensure a balanced and healthy lifestyle.

School-Aged Children (6-12 Years): Establishing Healthy Screen Time Habits

As children enter school, their screen time requirements change, and it becomes more challenging to set specific time limits.

Instead, parents should prioritize monitoring the quality and purpose of their child’s screen time, ensuring that it aligns with their values and educational goals.

Encourage your child to participate in offline activities such as sports, hobbies, or socializing with friends, while also fostering a balance between recreational screen time and other essential aspects of their daily lives.

Teenagers (13-18 Years): Striking the Right Balance

Teenagers are more autonomous in their screen time choices and are likely to be increasingly exposed to digital devices for both academic and social purposes.

Maintain an open dialogue with your teen about responsible technology use and potential risks. Teach them about digital etiquette, privacy, and online safety, while encouraging a balance between screen time and other activities such as physical exercise, hobbies, and social interactions.

Ultimately, the key to managing your child’s screen time lies in understanding the importance of balance and open communication. By being involved in their digital lives and promoting healthy habits, you can help your children develop a positive relationship with technology that will serve them well as they grow into adulthood.