Screen time: How much is too much?

Time in front of TV, tablets and other screens can affect learning

Screen time limits: three kids share a digital tablet on the couch.

“Time to turn off your tablet.”

“Just 5 more minutes?”

Sound familiar? If your home is like many others, you might find that your child is very familiar with electronic devices like TVs, tablets and smartphones. And, like others, your child might want to use those devices a lot, too.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents place limits on the use of any media:

  • For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting.
  • If you want to introduce digital media to your children 18 to 24 months of age, choose high-quality programming, and watch it with your children to help them understand what they’re seeing.
  • For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to one hour per day of high-quality programs. Watch media with your children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.
  • For children ages 6 and older, place consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media.

Why set screen time limits

At home, many children use entertainment media — TV or movies — at the same time that they are doing other tasks, such as homework. Research suggests that the use of media while doing homework has negative effects on learning.

Find a doctor: Pediatrics at Sanford Health

It’s also important to remember that kids’ bodies and minds are still growing at this age. They need to get plenty of exercise and lots of unstructured, screen-free playtime alone or with friends.

It’s your job a as parent to decide on limits for your child regarding media use and exposure. Here are some tips for setting limits:

  • Make playtime a priority
  • Set up tech-free times and places, such as mealtimes, in the car or in the bedroom
  • Have daily and weekly screen limits — consider no screens one hour before bed
  • Use apps that automatically shut off devices after a certain amount of time
  • Keep screens out of the bedroom — TV, tech, charging time
  • Limit your own screen time

Ensure quality screen time

To ensure your child has quality screen time:

  • Research video and computers games before getting them for your child
  • Preview programs, games or apps — take time to watch, play or use them with your child to make sure the rating matches what you feel is appropriate for your child
  • Use parental blocks or filters
  • Keep your child close by so you can supervise media use — this may mean having the computer somewhere you can easily see what’s going on
  • Ask your child often what programs or games were played with during the day
  • Have ongoing communication about online citizenship and safety, including treating others with respect online and offline

For kids of all ages, screen time should not replace time needed for sleeping, eating, playing, school work and having fun with family and friends.

Managing your child’s use of screens and media will be an ongoing challenge. But by developing household rules — and adjusting them when needed as your child grows — you can help ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

If you are concerned about your child’s development, consult with your child’s health care provider.

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Posted In Children's, Parenting

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