Media use on devices like computers, tablets, smartphones, and TVs can be a source of learning and entertainment for kids. But too much can take away from other activities, such as sleeping, exercising, playing with friends, and doing homework.
Studies show that kids who watch too much TV are more likely to be overweight — and, depending on the content of what they see, more aggressive. Too much media use is also linked to poor grades, sleep problems, and behavior problems.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) created these guidelines for media use:
- Babies and toddlers up to 18 months old: No screen time except for video-chatting with family and friends.
- Toddlers 18 months to 24 months: Some screen time with a parent or caregiver.
- Preschoolers: No more than 1 hour a day of educational programming, together with a parent or other caregiver who can help them understand what they're seeing.
- Kids and teens 5 to 18 years: Parents should figure out what media limits work best for their kids. Consider things like their age, health, and personality. Media should not take the place of enough sleep or being physically active.
Kids should have a wide variety of free-time activities, like spending time with friends and playing sports, which can help develop a healthy body and mind.
What Else Should I Know?
The quality of the media kids use is as important as the quantity, if not more so. That's why experts have not set specific time limits for school-aged kids and teens. Limits that different families might choose can vary depending on the age, health, and personality of their kids, and also on the family’s lifestyle and values. The AAP's family media plan tool helps parents think about these things as they create a media plan for their family.
Parents can help kids choose media content that is meaningful, educational, and social. They can also actively engage with their children as they use media to help guide them and teach them safe practices.