Screen Time Out: Managing Electronic Media Use by Children and Adolescents

Screen Routines: Young Children

photo of father and toddler watchting tv together
  • Children as young as 2 and 3 years view electronic screens 2 to 3 hours a day.
  • Early exposure to media may curtail a child’s:
    • Critical brain development.
    • Gross motor skill development because sedentary screen time means lost time for play, crawling, walking, riding a tricycle, and physical activities like learning sports.
    • Ability to solve problems and communicate with others face to face.
    • Ability to build secure relationships.
    • Ability to establish healthy routines.
    • Ability to obtain adequate sleep.
    • Ability to maintain a healthy weight.

Screen Interference: Did you know?

Sleep: “For every hour spent using a tablet device, infants and toddlers get 15.6 minutes less sleep, and older kids miss out on an average of 26.4 minutes of sleep nightly. (Infants need 12 to 15 hours of sleep a day and 1- to 2-year-olds require 11 to 14 hours, so every missed minute matters.)” (National Sleep Foundation, 2019)

Weight: A study of 2-year-olds found that body mass index (BMI) increased with every hour per week of media consumed (American Academy of Pediatrics [AAP], 2016). Research shows strong associations between increases in advertising for non-nutritious foods and rates of childhood obesity (American Psychological Association, 2019).

Development: Research shows that higher levels of screen time at ages 2 and 3 years is associated with poor performance on developmental screening tests at ages 3 and 5 (JAMA Pediatrics, 2019).

AAP Screen Time Guidelines for Young Children

Birth through 17 months:

  • Avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting.

18 through 23 months:

  • If parents decide to introduce media, they should choose only high-quality programs such as Sesame Street and other PBS programs for very young children.
  • Parents should co-view media with their child.

2 through 4 years:

  • Limit screen use to one hour a day of high-quality programs.
  • Parents should co-view media with their child.
  • Parents should help children understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.

Source: Policy Statement: Media and and Young Minds (AAP, 2016).

Benefits of Face-to-Face Time for Young Children

  • Unstructured and offline play stimulates creativity.
  • Very young children learn best through two-way communication. Engaging in back-and-forth "talk time" is critical for language development.
  • Co-viewing and co-playing with children using screens can encourage social interactions, bonding, and learning.
  • Without the distraction of electronic screens, children can learn how to identify and handle strong emotions, manage boredom, calm down through breathing or talking, and find ways to solve problems.
photo of mother and toddler face-to-face