From cell phones and tablets to computers and TVs, we are a society of screens. But how much recreational screen time is too much for kids and teens—and how can you set realistic limits for your family?
While there are so many things you can do and enjoy on screens, pediatrician Dr. Pilar Bradshaw says there are physical and mental benefits to limiting the amount of time you spend in front of them—for both children and adults.
“Now that COVID-19 has eased, the American Academy of Pediatrics is encouraging families to tamp down its amount of screen time,” she says. “Time on a screen is not benign. It takes our time away from each other, it takes time away from family, it takes our time away from being outside, exercising and eating together and really being a community.”
How much screen time is too much?
The numbers of how much screen time kids get on a daily basis may seem shocking, with The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting a range of 6-9 hours.
For its part, the American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends the following limits:
- No screen time for children under age 2 beyond video chatting with loved ones.
- No more than one hour daily for kids ages 2-to-12
- For teens, a maximum of two hours of recreational screen time per day.
Dr. Bradshaw says she sees screen time limits applying to recreational time apart from time that’s required for schoolwork.
How to reduce screen time
To help reduce your kids’ screen time, consider these tips:
- Encourage unplugged, unstructured playtime.
- Create phone-free zones in your home, including family meal areas.
- Have everyone in the family turn off screens at least an hour before bed; this will encourage better sleep.
- Lead by example by spending less time on your own devices.
- Most importantly, when deciding on screen time limits, think about what’s realistic.
“It’s very helpful to have a conversation as a family to set reasonable goals,” Dr. Bradshaw says. “So, if all of you have been on your screens for 10 hours a day, have a conversation. Maybe we should try to cut it in half as a start and then work down.”
Parents should also be aware of the example they set. “You can’t make a rule about phones and then be on your phone all day,” she says. “For your kids, you have to model the behavior that you want to see.”
Setting a schedule is among other ways to limit screen time for kids. Plan screen-free time, study time and designated screen time for fun.
Making a family plan
Need help on how to set limits on screen time? The American Academy of Pediatrics has made it easy to create an individualized family media use plan.