Screen time is the time you spend each day using devices with screens, like TVs, video consoles, smartphones and tablets. There are benefits and risks to using these devices, so a healthy family lifestyle includes limits on daily screen time.
What is screen time?
Screen time is the time you spend watching TV or DVDs, using computers, playing video or hand-held computer games, or using tablets or smartphones.
Screen time can be:
Screen time guidelines
Child development experts recommend limiting children’s daily screen time. This is because real-life interactions with you and others are much better for your child’s wellbeing, learning and development.
The latest guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggest that:
What do screen time limits mean for your child?
Screen time limits are about making sure your child enjoys lots of healthy, fun activities – both with and without screens.
Limits mean looking at the time your child spends on screens and making sure it doesn’t get in the way of sleep and activities that are good for her development. These activities include things like physical play, reading, creative play like drawing, and social time with family and friends.
Limits don’t mean you should stop your child from watching TV or playing video games because he uses screens at school or for homework.
These guidelines aim to help you manage your family’s media use in a screen-filled world. The AAP suggests a good way to do this is by creating a family media plan. Your plan could cover things like screen-free areas in your house, screen-free times, and programmes and apps that are OK for your children to use.
Benefits of screen time
Television, movies, video games and the internet can be a positive influence on your child. This is especially when:
How do you know whether a TV show, movie, app or video game is of good quality? Our article on how your child can benefit from media explains.
Risks of screen time
Screen time can have physical, developmental, safety and other risks. If you reduce the amount of time your child spends using screens, you can reduce the risks for your child.
Using screens can cause physical problems. For example:
You can reduce these risks by encouraging your child to:
Too much screen time can have an impact on children’s language development and social skills. This is because children need real-life interactions to develop these skills. Too much screen time can also affect older children’s development – for example, it can affect their ability to have conversations, maintain eye contact, pay attention in school or read body language.
Too much screen time can also result in children missing out on developing a wide range of interests, and the friends and learning associated with these interests.
You can reduce this risk by making sure your child balances time spent using screens with other activities.
Your child could encounter dangerous material or people on the internet.
You can reduce this risk by taking some practical internet safety precautions like checking the privacy settings on apps that your child uses. You can also help your child learn how to use the internet safely, responsibly and enjoyably – for example, by talking to your child about not sharing personal details online.
Screen-based media can influence children and their behaviour – for example, children can copy or be influenced by negative behaviour, sterotypical representations of gender, violent imagery or coarse language they see in advertising and other media.
You can reduce this risk by helping your child develop media literacy, so that she can understand and question media messages.
Video: Using technology
In this video, parents and their child talk about the different ways they use technology, and the family rules regarding usage of such devices.
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