In this age of Covid-19 especially, you may be asking yourself how much screen time your kids “should” be getting. Schools do a lot online, we may be using Zoom or FaceTime with family and friends, and without the usual activities, we are probably all watching more television than we were 6 months ago! 

All the screen time counts as screen time, whether it’s television, an e-reader (Kindle Paperwhite, etc), phones, tablets, computer screens, and any variation of these. If it’s electronic and has images, it probably counts under “screen time.” 

How can you know what is the right amount of screen time? When it comes down to it, you’ll make that decision yourself, of course. But a good place to start is the recommendations of the physicians who care for kids. 

Screen Time Recommendations, By Age

kids watching screenThe American Academy of Pediatrics reviews the available research and what has shown to be realistic and practical. Here’s a summary of how they say to limit screen time:

  • 0-18 months: no screen time other than video chatting… so, this says you can FaceTime with folks and the little one.
  • 18-24 months: choose high-quality digital media, watching it first by yourself to decide it’s suitability, and explain it to your child. Watch the media with your child; avoid letting them watch without your presence.
  • 2-5 years: limit screen use to 1 hour (total) per day. Choose high-quality programs. Watch it with them, in real-time, to explain and put in context what they are seeing. Again, co-view or co-play with your children.​ 
  • 6-teens: Generally, the AAP recommends no more than two hours a day of screen time. They emphasize, though, that more important than any screen time is a good amount of sleep, daily physical activity, schoolwork, family time, and other essential healthy activity. When these are done, they may be able to fit in some screen time – and they may not total nearly two hours. 
  • For all ages, set some media-free family time together, such as meals and driving, as well as media-free areas, such as bedrooms and bathrooms. 
  • For everyone (meaning adults as well as kids), avoid any screen time an hour before sleep to ensure an easy bedtime and restful sleep. 
  • How much screen time is healthy will depend on each child. It is recommended not to go beyond these limits, and many children are happier and more successful with lower limits. 1

If your child is watching significantly more than the recommended amount, it’s going to be ok. A gradual reduction of time spent should be effective to reduce their consumption. In some cases, there may be some resistance, and that’s ok, too. You’ll get through it, and they will, too! 

Keep in mind that it is far easier to DO something than to STOP DOING something. When we tell another person to “stop doing this or that,” we are emphasizing the “this or that.” We are telling them to think of what we want them to stop going. So, instead of emphasizing what we don’t want, replace it. 

Begin with a list of five activities they would like to do. Your list could come from them or you. If you think you’ll have more “buy-in” and participation from them, then ask them. Examples: play catch, read a book together, bake something, plant something, do the dishes (don’t laugh, my girl likes to do them), or anything away from screens! It might work better to find physical activities, for some kids. 

And when it’s time to do the screens as usual, detour the conversation toward the fun activity. 

Look here to learn more about my Screen Time Solutions class and parenting coaching.