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How Much Screen Time Is OK for My Kids?

Topics: Screen Time

Kids are spending more time with digital devices -- and at younger ages -- than ever before. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have helpful guidelines for limiting screen time for young kids. The reality is, there's no magic number that's just right for every child. What's important is the quality of kids' content, how your kids engage with it, and balancing their time with and without screens in ways that are healthy and support their development.

Simply calling all device use "screen time" can miss some important differences. Common Sense research studies identify four main categories of screen time:

  • Passive: mindlessly watching videos or shows, scrolling, on autopilot

  • Interactive: playing games, problem-solving

  • Communication: video-chatting, using social media ​

  • Content creation: making digital art or music, coding

Clearly, there are a lot of differences between these activities. And as valuable as many of them can be, it's still important for kids' overall healthy development to balance their lives with enriching experiences away from screens. These tips can help:

  • Pay attention to how your kids act during and after watching TV, playing video games, or hanging out online. There's no need to worry as long as:

    • They're using high-quality and age-appropriate content.

    • Their behavior is positive.

    • Screen time is balanced with other parts of life like sleep, connecting with family and friends, and time outdoors.

  • If you're worried about too much time on devices, consider creating a schedule that works for your family.

    • Include limits on how long kids can use devices, the kinds of devices they can use, and the types of activities or programs they can choose.

    • Get kids' input so the plan teaches critical thinking skills and self-regulation.

    • Find out what they like to watch, introduce new shows and apps for them to try, or plan a family movie night.

The AAP's guidelines allow for some screen time for children younger than 2. For this age group, parental involvement is essential. They recommend the following for parents and caregivers:

  • Under 18 months: Avoid screen time other than video-chatting.

  • Age 18–24 months: Find high-quality programming (if you choose to introduce screen time), and watch or play together.

  • Age 2–5: Limit screen use to one hour per day of high-quality programs.

  • Create a family media plan with consistent rules, and enforce them for older kids.

The reality is that most families will go through periods of heavy and light screen use, but as long as there's a balance, kids should be just fine.

Common Sense Media

Common Sense Media offers the largest, most trusted library of independent age-based ratings and reviews. Our timely parenting advice supports families as they navigate the challenges and possibilities of raising kids in the digital age.