Screen Time Parenting Guide in a 1000 Words or Less
Article by: Vicky Adams, ES Principal
Raising children can be overwhelming and parents need information quickly and efficiently to stay caught up. So let’s cut to the chase regarding the topic of screen time. Screen time for young children is not helpful to their development. In fact, it could delay their development and cause other learning difficulties. That statement is a hard pill to swallow given how engrained technology is in our adult daily lives. The fact of the matter is, however, that young children age 0-2 who interact with screens are more likely to have speech and language delays, fine motor delays, and a lack of core muscle strength. Children ages 2 – 5 who spend more than an hour a day in front of a screen risk stunted social emotional growth, learning how to be creative, and critical problem solving skills. For older children and adolescents ages 6+, excessive screen time is linked to increased psychological difficulties that include ADHD, emotional and behavioral problems, difficulties handling social interactions, and poor school performance. The bottom line is that it’s imperative to your child’s progress to maintain good control over how much time he spends with a device as well as the content he is viewing and playing.
Among the latest recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics for children’s media use are:
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.
So what do children need instead of screen time? Young children need real life experiences and interactions with trusted caregivers to help them develop both physically and emotionally. They gain understanding of their world by seeing it, hearing about it, manipulating it, exploring it, and playing in it. There are no apps that can replace building core strength with tummy time. There are no apps that replace a child being held and listening to mom or dad talk about what a flower is, then being able to touch that flower and feel how smooth the leaves are, and smell that flower. There are no e-books that can replace the giggles that stem from a good Dr. Seuss book, sharing favorite characters, favorite parts of the story, fun ways to change the ending, etc. In fact, there is a growing amount of research that supports that e-books actually hinder a child’s ability to comprehend because of so many distracting pieces that are available while reading the story.
Older children benefit from real-world experiences just as much as young children do. Developing social emotional skills and lifeskills such as sense of humor, cooperation, compromise, responsible decision making, etc. can only be accomplished through regular practice with peers and family members in various social settings. Too much screen time does not allow for that healthy interaction. Has your child ever had a playdate during which she and her friend sat next to one another playing their devices and not talking for an hour? While it may seem shocking, in a study funded by the Kaiser Family Foundation, children ages 8 – 18 were found to spend a whopping 7+ hours in front a screen of some type each day. Whether there is an official diagnosis of a screen addiction or not, the growing number of children seeking professional help for symptoms related to a device is alarming.
The good news is that parents are becoming more educated on the topic daily – just as you are doing right now. Now that the dangers of too much screen time have been recognized and identified, more and more opportunities to learn about and address the crisis (I don’t use that term lightly) are surfacing daily. Parents are beginning to turn off the tablets and tv’s for their toddlers and going back to the hands-on creative games like playdough, blocks, and make-believe play; they are making older children aware of the dangers, and the signs and symptoms of screen addiction so they can take ownership in turning off their devices themselves; they are creating family media plans, etc. It’s a problem that has a solution and more and more parents are willing to put the work in to fix it. I can’t think of anything worth the effort more important than our children’s physical, social and emotional well-being. Can you?
To learn more about this topic and/or for resources to help reduce screen time, visit