In this time of constant technological advancement, it can be hard to know exactly how much screen time is too much when it comes to kids. On the one hand, we want them to be familiar with technology when it seems to be the track the world is following. We also want them to have every advantage in a rapidly-changing world. On the other hand, though, we don’t want them to spend every waking minute staring blankly into a screen that may not be as educational as we hope.
It can be hard to find a balance! You may know some people who place no limits on screen time for their kids, and other people who have completely banned tablets in their household. What is a parent to do? I did some research and found some basic guidelines to consider when it comes time to make a technology plan for your household.
Too Much Screen Time?
Limits per Age Group
For children up to 18 months, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends limiting screen time to video chatting. This is because children of this age need a lot of interactive, real-world exploration in order to develop cognitive, language, motor, and social-emotional skills. Also, children of this age do not have the ability to take information from digital media and transfer it into daily life.
For children 18-24 months, if you would like to begin introducing digital media to a child, the AAP recommends only choosing high-quality programming for a child to watch. Furthermore, the Academy recommends that trusted adults watch the programming with the child in order to see and understand what he or she is seeing. At this age, evidence shows that children can begin to learn words from either video chatting with a responsible adult or from a high-quality program that allows a child to choose a correct answer.
For children in this age bracket, screen time should be limited to one hour per day. As with children 18-24 months in age, this should be high-quality programming, and trusted adults should continue to watch along with the child. At this age, it is important for adults to help children understand what they are seeing and learning, as well as to continue to take those lessons and apply them to the real world.
Guidelines for this large age range are much more lax, and at this stage, adults should be able to make their own limits on screen time based on a child’s individual needs. The AAP places a lot of importance on setting reasonable limits that do not in any way interfere with a child’s sleep or physical activity. To help stick to these guidelines, the Academy recommends the following:
- Designate times that are always “screen free,” such as when you are in the car or eating meals.
- Designate spaces that are always “screen free,” such as the bedroom.
- Talk to your child often and in an age-appropriate way about the responsible use of media.
- Practice what you preach: Attempt to limit your own screen time to no more than 2 hours a day. This may seem difficult at first, but it will go a long way in setting a great example for responsible technology usage.
- Make a family “media plan.” Visit The American Academy of Pediatrics’ “Healthy Children” site and help your family put all of these tips into use by creating your very own media plan.
What do you think? Do you set screen time limits at your house? Are screens banned altogether? Do you have any tips for beginning to reduce media usage in a household? We would love to hear from you in the comments!
Author: Emily Karth, Program Coordinator at A Grade Ahead