How Much Screen Time Is Too Much?

The events of the past two years have put a lot of strain on all of us, in both expected and unexpected ways. Maybe you’ve had the time to finally take up woodworking or knitting, or maybe you’ve undergone a career change that was accelerated by the upheaval. No matter the reason, all of our lives have changed for better or for worse.

One thing that might have changed in particular is how we’ve kept our children entertained. Online schooling and the desire to keep them occupied so caregivers can get work done has likely meant more screen time than ever.

Electronics and child development is an interesting field to study, so we’ve assembled some tips for parents who are nervous about how much screen time might be too much for their child.

The state of the union

For starters, it’s important to establish some context. Roughly half of all children under eight years old have their own tablet, and research shows that all kids spend around 2.25 hours a day on screens. This might not sound like much, but the jury is still out on what exactly the relationship between screen time and child development really is.

There are some things that we definitely know. Children under two have been proven to learn less from a video than from observing another person in real life, for starters. Beyond that, most kids don’t even understand the content that they’re watching until after they’re two. That means that, while it might hold their attention and it might even appear educational, the kids likely aren’t learning much before the age of two.

Potential risks

Many health professionals and pediatricians have warnings about the dangers and pitfalls of too much screen time. Screens can be addictive, and they can affect the sleep of older children (especially if they use them right before bed). Parents should limit their own phone use whenever possible to set a positive example.

For older children, risks can still occur. Passive learning is not how most children and adolescents learn; they typically need to be engaged with other real human beings for information to truly register. Tablets and other devices don’t offer that, so learning outcomes likely won’t be as good from screens.

Professional recommendations

There are many recommendations on screen time and child development that are offered by health professionals for the benefit of parents and caregivers.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, for example, recommends that kids don’t start with screens at all (except for video chats) until they’re about two; even then, they recommend only one hour of programming a day until they’re five or so. That programming should also be educational in nature, such as PBS. Older kids can be given more freedom, but it’s important to stick to limits and even establish media-free times for teens (family dinners are a great option).

If you’re concerned that electronics and child development aren’t achieving the right mix in your home, then My Second Home Early Learning Center could offer some alternatives. We help children of all ages, from infants to Pre-K Plus, achieve their educational goals, so give us a call today to see how we can fit your plan.