How Much Screen Time is Too Much?

The million dollar question on every parent’s mind.

Navigating technology for children is a slippery slope, especially in the age of remote learning. Studies have shown children who spend endless hours glued to a device experience developmental and language delays. However, to expect children to not have exposure to electronic devices at all is not realistic.

What Parents Can Do

For younger children I recommend parents ask themselves “what is this replacing?” before handing over an electronic device. Could the child be playing with toys, reading a book, drawing/writing or playing outside instead? Is this replacing social interactions? If so, I would hold off giving the child a device and encourage play and social interactions instead. There is much to be gained across all developmental domains during play and social skills as opposed to zoning out in front a tablet.

If you need to occupy your child for 10 to 20 minutes while you cook dinner, take a conference call or tidy up – by all means let your child play an education game or watch a short cartoon. Quality use is an important factor. Choose quality videos and apps. Don’t let your child fall down the never-ending black hole of YouTube.

For older children I recommend leading by example and setting up tech-free times or zones (ie. during meals, bedroom). Your child’s brain is still developing. Technology sucks away time from activities the needs to develop, such as sleep, exercise, unstructured child-led play and social interactions which help prevent stress. One family I know instills the rule ‘no phones on the couch’. Their mother tells her children to “talk instead”. I love this! Simple, yet it’s necessary to setup these guidelines around technology.

Final Thoughts

I find it interesting Silicon Valley app developers and tech bigwigs such as Steve Jobs do not let their children use technology at home. Why? They create technology to be easily used and design apps to keep you sucked in.

That being said, I don’t think you need to go to the extreme of never allowing your child to use technology. Technology plays a major role in our world. Approach it like you would with creating healthy eating habits. Consuming too technology has the same impact on your child’s development as consuming too much junk. No one is saying never eat junk food, but do so in moderation. There is no right answer for the reasonable amount of screen time per age/grade. It depends on the individual child.


Common Sense Media

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