As the use of technology increases, user age decreases. Touch-screens are now everywhere from public locations like restaurants and malls to private locations like AI technology in our homes. Even children’s toys are advancing in the use of screens and high tech interactions, so how much screen time is right for kids? 

Digital literacy is certainly important as technology advances. Children are part of a world that is highly digitized and will continue to be in the years ahead. Schools are increasingly relying on Chromebooks, iPads, Smart Boards, and other assistive technology to support learning both in and out of the classroom. As a result, the time a child spends looking at a screen is increasing by necessity and choice.

Part of the answer to how much screen time is right for kids depends on the child’s age. The Mayo Clinic recommends these general guidelines:

  • 18-24 months – 0 hours (except for video chatting)
  • 2-5 year olds – limit to 1 hour per day
  • 6+ years old – individualized to child

The challenge for parents, then, is determining “rules” for how much screen time is appropriate. This is especially true for a child entering their elementary school years and beyond. Parental discretion is necessary and will likely vary based on what they know about their child and what they deem appropriate to their family values.

The Mayo Clinic provides some additional recommendations about how to establish guidelines for kids.

Match their real and virtual play environments 

Treat virtual environments the same way you would real world playtime. Play with your kids, teach them kindness and fairness, know their friends, and monitor the quality of the technology. It can be tempting to allow screens to “babysit” kids and be more hands off than if they were doing something else in your home. Consider applying the same foundational “rules” for child play, whether technology assisted or not.

Ensure quality screen time for young kids

When determining how much screen time is right for kids, the quality of play matters. Preview games your child is asking to play. Research what other parents are saying about the game or what the game makers are recommending for age of play. Common Sense Media is one such place that provides this kind of guidance. Watch your kids play so you can see how they engage (their mood and demeanor)  and how sedentary or interactive they are while playing (choose interactive). With television, make sure rating limits are turned on to prevent them from watching shows that aren’t age appropriate.

Set limits for older children   

While many of the same guidelines apply for younger and older children, the teen years require adjustments in your decision about how much screen time is right for kids. Additional considerations might include removing tech devices from their bedrooms to promote better sleep. You may consider different screen time limits on weekdays and weekends or expectations on when homework gets done and screens are turned off. Enabling age restrictions on television shows is also good practice for this age group. 

Technological advancement and screen time is here to stay. While general guidance is provided by experts to influence wise use based on what they know about the healthy development of kids, ultimately the decision is left to parents. With discretion and involvement, parents can guide their kids to a healthy, interactive future with technology.