Per the American Academy of Pediatrics it is recommended that:
- For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting.
- Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming and watch it with their children to help them understand what they’re seeing.
- For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should co-view media with 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, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health.
- Designate media-free times together, such as dinner or driving, as well as media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms.
- Have ongoing communication about online citizenship and safety, including treating others with respect online and offline.
Tips and Tricks for Screen Time
Don’t underestimate the value of traditional toys and open spaces. There are many videos, shows and games that talk about their educational value, and while they can be great tools and content, it’s important for kids to experience unstructured “free play,”. Free Play means that they decide what to do, and how to do it, and are playing simply for play’s sake—not to get to the next level in a game, or learn some specific skill. Children should experience the fun of making up their own rules — and breaking them — as they go along. This kind of play lets kids:
- Move at their own pace, instead of being driven (or hurried) along by fast-moving media
- Develop creativity
- Get experience making decisions
- Practice sharing and working with others
- Learn to be a leader and self-advocate
Set Limits. Most devices have parental controls that allow you to designate how much time that device will be on. Using those tools make it so you aren’t the “bad guy” for taking away a phone, video game or tablet as it is the device stating they have used their time instead of you. For things that are harder to automate, having a timer or set start and end time can be helpful as well.
Screen free spaces. No screens in the bedroom (also great for helping kids get adequate sleep!) and no screens at the dinner table are great ways to set up physical boundaries for screen time. Establishing (and enforcing) these limits from a young age teaches kids to be healthy media consumers.
Don’t make screens the reward (or consequence). Technology is enormously appealing to kids as it is, but when we make screen time the go-to thing kids get for good behavior — or get taken away for bad behavior — we are making it even more desirable, thereby increasing the chances that a child will overvalue it.
Start leading by example early. Even before your child has a phone or tablet of her own, show him or her how they should be used. Don’t check your messages at the dinner table. Let your bedroom be a screen free space. Look at people when they’re talking to you — not at your phone. Remember that your children are always watching you and young children notice everything — that’s how they learn.