Most of a baby's brain development happens in the first 2 years of life. That's why it's so important for babies and toddlers to explore their environment and experience many sights, sounds, tastes, and textures. Interacting and playing with others helps children learn about the world around them.
So experts recommend limiting the amount of time that babies and toddlers spend in front of a screen. That's good advice — but in today's world, it can be tough to keep babies and toddlers away from all the TVs, tablets, computers, smartphones, and gaming systems they'll see.
How Much Is Too Much?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that babies younger than 18 months get no screen time at all. The exception to this rule is video chatting with grandparents or other family members or friends, which is considered quality time interacting with others.
Toddlers 18 months to 24 months old can start to enjoy some screen time with a parent or caregiver. Children this age can learn when an adult is there to reinforce lessons.
By ages 2 and 3, it’s OK for kids to watch up to 1 hour a day of high-quality educational programming.
Screen Time Tips
When introducing screen time to toddlers:
- Be with young kids during screen time. That can mean playing an educational game or talking about something you see together in an age-appropriate TV show or video.
- Research games and apps before getting them for your child. Thousands of apps and games claim to be educational, but not all of them are. Search online to see which ones educators and doctors consider the best. When possible, preview before sharing with your child.
- Schedule plenty of non-screen time into your child's day. Playtime is important for learning and building creativity. Schedule lots of time for hands-on learning and interacting with caregivers and friends. Also, encourage your child to be physically active every day.
- Turn off screens during meals and at least 1 hour before bed. Keep TVs and other electronics out of the bedroom.
- Set a good example. Turn off TVs and other screens when not in use. Don’t leave screens on in the background and turn off your phone when you are with your child. This can distract from your interactions and your child’s play.
Talk to your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about managing your child’s screen use.