The amount of screen time your child should be allowed is definitely a “hot button” conversation among families. Historically, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that children under two watch no TV, and children over two watch no more than two hours per day. But even the AAP concedes that not all viewing is created equal, and in 2016 they released new guidelines which allow for some screen time for children younger than 2 and emphasize parental involvement no matter your child’s age. Guidelines include:
- Avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting for children younger than 18 months.
- If you choose to introduce media to children 18-24 months, find high-quality programming and co-view and co-play.
- Limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs for children age 2 to 5 years.
- Create a family media plan with consistent rules and enforce them for older kids.
Realistically, there’s no magic number that’s ideal for everyone (and hey, we’ve all been there when it’s easier to give your child a screen instead of having them scream in a crowded restaurant)! Most important is the quality of children’s media, how your kids engage while it’s on and how it fits into your family’s lifestyle. These days, screen time is not one-dimensional. Computers, tablets, and smartphones can be used for lots of purposes. Common Sense Media defines their use in four different ways:
- Passive consumption: watching TV, reading, and listening to music
- Interactive consumption: playing games and browsing the Internet
- Communication: video-chatting and using social media
- Content creation: using devices to make digital art or music
Obviously there are differences here, and as valuable as any educational source proclaims, it’s still important for children’s overall development to balance their lives with enriching experiences found when the screen is off. The reality is your family will likely go through periods of both heavy and light media use, but as long as their is a healthy balance, your kids will turn out just fine.