How much screen time should my kids be having (or not having)? Q&A with a digital parenting expert

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With school over and summer here, parents are becoming more vigilant about their kids’ screen time. So when it comes to actual time, how much should kids be allowed to have? Unfortunately, it’s not a completely cut and dry answer, because there are a lot of factors to consider. While the AAP calls for no screen time for kids under 18 months, then less than an hour for kids 2-5, there’s not a lot of guidance for older kids. Here are a few guidelines to consider when you’re deciding how much (or how little) screen time your kids should have.

How old are your kids? This seems like an obvious guideline, but it’s important to keep in mind why age matters. It’s not just their brain development, but it’s their social development too. Older kids are much more socially-inclined beings, and technology is how most of them connect, whether it’s texting, or via apps. Think about how long you’d spend on your phone when you were a teen, and consider that in your decision.

What are they doing on screens? There are lots of different ways for kids to engage with their screens. They can be consumers, so think watching YouTube videos or TikTok videos, or they can be creators, like making videos or video games. Each requires a different brain process, so if they’re spending 5 hours making a YouTube video, that’s way different than them sitting around watching 5 hours of YouTube.

What are they doing off screens? If your kids have no time for anything else but their screens, then they’re probably getting too much screen time. But if they’re able to do homework, play outside, read books, eat meals with the family, hang with friends, and contribute to your household in a meaningful way, and still enjoy their screens, they’re probably doing okay. That might be a few hours one day, or no hours another day. I encourage you to think about the things you value as a family and make sure your kids are engaging in all of them on a regular basis.

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