Screen time is the amount of time a person spends using technology. That includes watching TV, using a smartphone or tablet, playing video games, etc. Technology plays an influential role in the modern world, but it can be dangerous in high volumes. How much screen time should your child get? What is a healthy amount of screen time for children? Let’s take a moment to figure that out.
Factors That Influence Screen Time
We cannot define a specific amount of screen time for children because that varies by child. It would be like saying a certain clothing size fits all 5-year-olds or all toddlers like the same foods. In determining an amount of screen time for your child, consider these factors:
- Age: Typically, screen time increases as a child gets older. For instance, a student in high school may require more computer time for school work. Many industry experts say that children should have no screen time at all before the age of two, but that may not always fit the lifestyle of the modern family.
- Maturity: Some children handle screen time better than others, meaning that they are mature enough to step away from technology without getting angry. That is why we cannot define specific times for specific ages because children mature at their own pace.
- Energy levels: A child with high energy may require more physical activity and less screen time. This energy can contribute to tantrums and outbursts as well. If a high-energy child spends a large portion of the day in front of a screen, he or she may become defiant when screen time is over. That’s not just because of anger. It’s also the result of pent-up energy that needs an outlet.
- Parental obligations: Many parents use technology to keep their children distracted while they complete a task. While we do not recommend this, we understand that it may seem like the only option in the moment. We encourage parents to find other sources of distraction, such as music or thought-provoking toys. We will discuss this more in Part 2 of this guide.
The Danger of Too Much Technology
What are the real dangers of too much screen time? Doesn’t technology help children function in the modern world? In many ways, technology is a vital tool for education and development. However, too much screen time at an early age can stunt a child’s academic growth and social development. Children with excessive screen exposure are also more likely to throw tantrums, either because of an addiction or because of unused energy.
Studies in Europe have found that children with one extra hour of screen time tested two grades lower than those with limited screen time. Knowing how to set healthy boundaries will help you keep your child’s emotional and mental development on track.
The Type of Screen Time Matters
Not all screen time is bad. There are some forms of screen time that are considered ‘high quality,’ such as educational TV shows or puzzle-solving apps. An hour of educational TV is better than an hour of video games. Thus when you start making plans for your child, consider how he or she is interacting with technology, not just how often.
Finding the Right Balance of Screen Time for Your Child
As a general rule of thumb, we recommend less than one hour of screen time for children 2-5 years old. Children younger than that should only be exposed to screens during video chats or co-viewing with family (watching a movie together). As your child gets older, you may increase that timeframe in 15-30 minute intervals when it feels appropriate. You will know when your child is mature enough to handle this privilege.
If screen time is creating problems and emotional outbursts, you may need to create restrictions and find alternative entertainment. Continue to Part 2 to learn how to set healthy screen time limits for the family.