Screen time has changed dramatically since the first iPhone was introduced in 2007 and research suggests it's having a big impact on the development of children's brains. More studies are needed, but initial findings indicate that too much or poor quality screen time is linked to:
- Irregular sleep schedules and shorter duration of sleep
- Behavioral problems
- Loss of social skills
- Less time for play
The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages media use, except for video chatting, by children younger than 18 to 24 months. If you introduce digital media to children ages 18 to 24 months, make sure it's high quality and avoid solo media use. For children ages 2 to 5, limit screen time to one hour a day of high-quality programming.
As your child grows, you'll need to decide how much media to let them use each day and what's appropriate. Use the Family Media Plan from healthychildren.org to develop a plan for each child. Quality screen time and setting limits will help ensure a safe experience.
Ensure Quality Screen Time:
- Preview programs, games, and apps before allowing your child to view or play with them. Common Sense Media can help you determine what's appropriate.
- Seek out interactive options that engage your child, rather than pushing, swiping, or staring at the screen.
- Use parental controls to block or filter internet content.
- Make sure your child is close by during screen time so that you can supervise activities.
- Ask your child what programs, games, and apps they played with during the day.
- When watching programming with your child, discuss what you're watching and educate about advertising and commercials.
- Avoid fast-paced programming (which young children have a hard time understanding), apps with a lot of distracting content, and violent media.
- Eliminate advertising on apps, since young children have trouble telling the difference between ads and factual information.
- Prioritize unplugged, unstructured playtime.
- Create tech-free zones or times, such as during mealtime or one night a week.
- Discourage the use of media entertainment during homework.
- Set and enforce daily or weekly screen time limits and curfews, such as no exposure to devices or screens one hour before bedtime.
- Consider using apps that control the length of time a child can use a device.
- Require your children to charge their devices outside of their bedrooms at night.
- Keep screens out of your child's bedroom.
- Limit your own screen time.
- Eliminate background TV.
In addition, consider an occasional digital detox for the whole family. Create a screen-free night once a week or commit to unplugging one weekend a month. It could be good for everyone's physical and emotional health, as well as your family's relationships.