According to guidelines from many different organizations across America, the amount of screen time, also known as digital media exposure, should be limited to a certain amount. While this is true for everyone who uses a digital device, it is even truer for children.
With the modern society being a 24/7 digital media one, to really define how much screen time a person should have is difficult. It does not make sense to give out some type of blanket statement claiming that any given person should only have 2 hours of screen time per day. For some people, these 2 hours may even be too much.
While there should definitely a limited amount of screen time every day, there actually is a guideline for how much screen time should be allowed. While these times vary depending upon the age of the individual, they are a great guideline that should be followed as much as possible.
Here are the amounts of screen time that different ages of people should be having every single day, at the most. Now keep in mind that the less screen time that people have, the better. However, when it comes to children, these are the guidelines that have been set by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and should are based off of the research that they have done into the effects that screen time has on children.
- 18 Months Old and Younger Should Get No Screen Time at All
While it can be difficult to simply stop giving your children aged 18 months and younger, studies have shown that they should not be having any type of screen time at all. How easy and convenient is it to pull up a kids show when your child starts to act up, especially if it helps to settle them down?
However, when you do allow them to have screen time, you are actually not helping them at all. In fact, when you give them screen time, you are actually hindering their development and preventing connections to be made. You see, screen time in those who are 18 months and younger can actually prevent their brain from developing correctly. On top of that, you will also be disrupting them from creating the healthy parent to child connections that they need.
For example, say that you are feeding your baby while watching a television show. Even though your baby may not be looking directly at the screen, your child can still be over stimulated by all of the sounds and the lights, potentially causing them undo distress and even forming sleep problems.
But even worse than this, is the potential for a disconnect between you and your child. You see, the more face-to-face interaction time that you share with your child, the better it is for the development of your baby’s brain. This is even truer when it comes to eye contact. But if you are fixated on the television show that you are watching, your baby will not be getting that attention and can potentially develop different behavioral issues later on in life.
This is exactly why it is recommended that those 18 months old and younger should have absolutely no screen time at all.
2 to 5 Years Old Should be Limited to One Hour of Screen Time Per Day
While children between the ages of 2 and 5 love watching their favorite shows or playing those fun kids games, they should be limited to just one hour per day. Instead, you should promote creative, no screen involved playtime for your children.
This is a decent age to start introducing them to screen time; it should be in extremely limited capacities. On top of that, of that one hour of screen time per day, it should be with a high quality program, like ‘Sesame Street’ or something similar. These types of shows are perfect for children as they don’t have any advertisements, which can easily over stimulate them.
Just remember that cartoons are a big no-no as they have not developed any cognitive skills that will make sense of any of the commercials or animations that they may see at this age. Instead, try using interactive media that provides a face-to-face experience, like Facetime or Skype. Not only will this be better for them, but it will also allow them to form more connections with grandma or whomever they are interacting with.
6 Years Old and Older Should Have Limited Screen Time
It is up to you as a parent to set the limits of screen time for your children and teens aged 6 and up. The specific amount of screen time that they should get varies depending upon the child, as well as the family. However, there should always be an emphasis on being productive as opposed to screen time.
To break it down, the average day for a healthy kid should include going to school, doing their homework, a minimum of one hour of some type of physical activity that is preferably done outside, some social interactions and sleeping for at least 8, and up to 12 hours. Anytime that is free and available after all of this has been calculated into their schedule can be used as their allowed screen time.
Just be sure that you keep healthy activities such as social interaction, physical activity and sleep at the top of the list. This means that screen time should not interfere with any of these activities no matter what the circumstances. While this may sound like a big deal, keep in mind that before all of the technology that we know today, nobody had any screen time, as there were no screens available. And since the world didn’t end when they couldn’t watch the latest episode of their favorite show, it won’t now either.
In this day and age, everyone has access to millions of different apps, streaming videos, social media, and games, each readily available from multiple different devices. In fact, cars are now coming equipped with their own Wi-Fi so that you can always be ‘connected’.
Yes, there are many different positive aspects of all the digital media that is available. It can easily be interactive, can facilitate communicating with others, help people create stuff, as well as help with homework.
But at the same time, everything has a flip side as well. When it comes to screen time and digital media, this can include the likes of cyberbullying, online predators, sexting, and even access to material that is not appropriate for somebody of that age. Now you factor in all of the awesome advertisements for foods that are processed and packed with unhealthy sugars and fat, and you eventually have bad choices being made.
This means that if you are allowing your children to have more screen time, you will need to make sure to discuss and understand that these are not healthy choices to make. So while screen time should be limited, it is also important for you to make sure that you are helping them to navigate through the never-ending media environment.
Tips for Healthy Digital Media Use
Keep in mind that you should be your child’s #1 role model, so it is also important for you to have good habits as well when it comes to screen time. This can be as simple as putting down your cellphone, shutting the television off, or turning off your computer or laptop at night.
While you may not think it, children know exactly what you are doing and if you are always looking at a screen, they will notice. Now this may not sound like much, it does have the potential to eventually lead to a higher level of irritability and worse behaviors.
To combat this, you should designate some time for ‘screen-free time’, hat you can all spend together playing games or other activities. When you are not having screen time, you will be able to get into conversations that actually mean something, which are extremely important for the development of your child. On top of that, the more interactions you have together, the more intimate the bond you will have. Plus, with less screen time, everyone will be able to get better nights sleep.
Some of the programs and shows available can be very educational and really help your children learn. However, when you allow them to rely on screen time as a form of entertainment, they are not doing the physical activities or social interactions that they require in develop fully. While you don’t have to eliminate screen time from them altogether, you should limit it so that it does not affect them from developing fully. The trick is to find the perfect balance between screen time and physical activity, social interactions, and everything else that they have going on in their lives. Just be prepared as it can be difficult to do at first, but rest assured that it will soon become much easier and everyone will be happier for it.