How much screen time is too much for kids?
Every parent I know struggles with deciding how much screen time is appropriate for their child. It doesn’t matter if the kids are toddlers or teenagers, the question looms over our heads like an ever-present guilt meter.
Weathering a global pandemic spiked those concerns even more, as we found ourselves thrusting computers in front of our children for everything from school instruction to playdates.
So how much screen time is too much?
While there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, there is a lot of good guidance out there. I spoke with my child’s pediatrician and ophthalmologist about it, and both based their advice on age. Basically, the youngest people should have the least amount of screen time, with more time allowed as they grow older.
The older kids are almost definitely getting more screen time than they should – children ages eight to 18 average seven and a half hours per day, which is way more than the experts recommend. The CDC breaks it down even further, noting eight to 10-year-olds spend six hours a day, 11 to 14-year-olds spend nine hours a day, and 15 to 18-year-olds spend seven and a half hours a day using screens as media entertainment.
With all these reports of excessive use, how can parents reign it in?
From the CDC to the Mayo Clinic, many institutions provide great advice about screen time for children. One of the most comprehensive outlines I’ve found is at myvision.org --this guide discusses the general rules you should consider, provides common sense tools to help you through the daily nitty gritty of it all, and lists lots of good references for more info.
I have three kiddos that absolutely love technology. Over the years, our family has developed a set of rules for computer and phone use that include a couple of non-negotiables that I highly recommend:
1. designated times of day when screens and video games are allowed
2. parental controls on all online devices, including preset age-appropriate limits on internet access
I also maintain a collection of fun, educational websites for my kids to explore on my ‘websites for kids’ page. When they want some computer game time, I send them to thechinden.com list and feel a little easier about their ventures on the internet.
The bottom line is that every family will have different screen rules and reasons for them. The most important thing is that you take the time to make them.
Here are some great sites to get you started:
American Academy of Pediatrics “Family Media Plan”
American Psychological Association “What do we really know about kids and screens?”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “Screen Time vs. Lean Time”
MyVision.org “Screen Time Guide for Parents”