Screen time and children: When to introduce it and how much is appropriate

Published on Oct 07, 2022 11:27 AM IST

How much screen time is too much? Know from an expert when and how much screen time is appropriate for your kids and how it can affect your child's health.

Screen time and children: When to introduce it and how much is appropriate(istockphoto)
Screen time and children: When to introduce it and how much is appropriate(istockphoto)

Monitoring a child's screen time can be difficult because screens are practically everywhere. It is simple to overdo it, even while some screen time can be informative and beneficial to kids' social development. Children might easily spend numerous hours per day in front of a screen. However, too much screen time can harm a child's growth and cause issues with weight and sleep. Screens cannot be avoided, and younger children are being exposed to an abundance of content much of it beyond parents control than ever before and parents are not able to assist kids. Parents can help their children develop good habits early on, find balance in their lives, control the type of media they consume, and be there for them when they need us. (Also read: Tools parents should know about to keep kids safe online )

Dr. Sami and Dr. Ana, Certified Pediatricians, suggested when you should introduce screen time to children and how much screen time is appropriate according to their age and its effects on their health.

When to introduce screen time:

  • Screens are not introduced to kids less than 18 months of age. But we know that this can be difficult, especially if you or your partner travels for work or if other family members live in different states. So we recommend screen time to be limited only to video calls.
  • For kids 18-24 months, limit screen time to watching educational programs with a caregiver.
  • Remember that kids learn by imitating parents, so we encourage you to be a good role model.
  • Put away screens during meals.

How much screen time is appropriate for your kids:

With the continuous rise of social media, advanced technologies, and innovative new apps - screens surround us all of the time. But how much screen time is too much? Here are some of our tips on regulating your child’s screen time:

  • 0-18 months: Try to avoid screens altogether, unless it's for video chatting. This is a crucial brain-developing period and your goal should be to have your child communicating with a handful of consistent words.
  • 18-24 months: Allow 30-60 minutes per day as long as it is high-quality content and interactive. In fact, there according to several studies concluded that kids who watched good learning content are more socially adaptable and more school-ready than their counterparts.
  • 2-7 years: 1 hour of screen time per day. Avoid empty content viewing. Try educational apps and consume interactive learning content.
  • Older kids/teens: No more than 2 total hours of screen time per day. Turn off all screens 1 hour before bedtime for better sleep hygiene. Not getting enough sleep is linked to many conditions, like increased blood pressure, obesity, lower immune function, difficulty focusing, and depression in the preteen/teen population.

In general, kids need around an hour of physical activity and between 8-12 hours of sleep a day. Make sure you incorporate that into their schedules and include family time without screens, like during meal times, to the best of your ability.

Effects of too much screen time:

  • Increased screen time (even 30 more minutes) can increase the risk of speech delay in kids.
  • Social media has made cyberbullying more prevalent. On top of that, seeing perfectly curated content online can negatively affect body image and self-esteem, especially in teenagers.
  • Screen time right before bed has been shown to affect the quality of sleep, and getting enough sleep has many health benefits including better immunity, better school performance, and better mental health. This is why we recommend turning off all screens 1 hour prior to bedtime.

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