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Healthy Screen Time Habits

Updated: Jan 8

Article content provided by Danielle Waters

Did you know that too much screen time could result in decreasing your child’s cognitive and language abilities?

A recent study in JAMA Pediatrics finds a relationship between higher-than-recommended screen time and lower organization of brain white matter to support language and literacy.  The AAP developed screen time recommendations for babies and toddlers because children 0-3 develop more quickly at this stage than any other. Too much screen time does not allow for play, reading and in person interactions that support brain development. Research also associates too much tv-viewing/viewing videos on hand held devices with later attention problems.

How much Screen time is okay?



0-18 months

None - video chats with family is okay

18-24 months

< 1 hour

2-5 years

0-3 hours - 1 hour or less each weekday and up to 3 hours each weekend day

6-17 years

2 hours


2-4 hours

Remember these are guidelines, and as parents, we still need to focus on maintaining healthy limits and make time for other important activities such as physical activity and sleep. It is important to have children take screen breaks. It is important to set up screen-free times (meal -time/hour before bed) and zones (no screens in the playroom/bedroom) to assist in keeping screen time limited.

Be aware of signs that your child may need reduced screen time, including expressing anger when asked to turn off or put screens away, insisting on more screen time, and showing a preference for screens over interpersonal interactions.

For younger children, it is best that they engage in educational games and or videos. Remember that just because it states it is educational doesn’t mean it always is. Make sure to monitor and be aware of what your child is engaging in.

Add social language in by speaking to your child about the screen time they are engaging in. For younger children, watch videos with them and talk about it/ask questions as it is playing. For older, school-age children, when they finish have them retell you what they watched or played.

Are you setting a good example?

We all utilize screen time, and it is easy to get swept up and spend too much time scrolling on our social media accounts or watching videos. According to Common Sense Media, 95% of parents say their own tech use interferes with daily opportunities for talking, playing and interacting with their own children. This results in our children getting fewer verbal and non-verbal interactions during the day. Currently, research indicates that children need an average of 40 conversational turns per hour for optimal brain development and school readiness.

Tips for setting up healthy screen time practices

CHALLENGE: Winter break is fast approaching. How much screen time will your child have this winter break? Engage in a winter break challenge to find ways to decrease screen time in your home. Go to a playground, plan an outing with your child, play at home with your child, bake some holiday cookies together. The possibilities are endless. Have fun!


The Common Sense Census: Media Use by Kids Age Zero to Eight, 2020

Gilkerson et al., 2018 Language experience in the second year of life and language outcomes in late childhood. Pediatrics (2018) 142 (4): e20174276.

Christakis et al., 2004 Early television exposure and subsequent attentional problems in children. Apr;113(4):708-13. doi: 10.1542/peds.113.4.708

Brown, A., 2011 Media Use by Children Younger than 2 Pediatrics (2011) 128 (5): 1040–1045.

Hutton, J. et al., 2019 Associations between screen-based media use and brain white matter integrity in preschool-aged childrenJAMA Pediatr. 2020;174(1):e193869. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2019.3869

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