Early Childhood News

How Much Is Too Much Screen Time? Why Every Family Needs a Media Plan

Screen time, used thoughtfully and appropriately depending on a child’s age, can enhance daily life for families. But if overused or used inappropriately, screen time can also be detrimental. 

Sometimes screen time – also called “media” to refer to time spent with television, tablets, smartphones and/or video games — can take the place of other, more important activities like face-to-face interaction, family time, playing outside, exercising and sleeping. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) encourages parents to help their children develop healthy media habits from a young age. To support this, AAP developed a tool for parents to create a Personalized Media Use Plan for their families. 

The Personalized Family Media Use Plan forces parents to think about what they want their children to get out of media use and helps them to create goals and guidelines that are in line with your family’s values and needs. A family media plan should take into account your child’s age, health, personality, and developmental stage. 

Create your own Personalized Family Media Use Plan and don’t worry, all the information you enter about your family will be kept confidential. 

Don’t forget to tell other caregivers about your family’s media plan, such as grandparents or sitters. That ensures that media use rules are consistently followed! 

Here are the AAP guidelines for screen time for young children:  

Children under 18 months

Use of screen media other than video-chatting should be discouraged.

Children 18 to 24 months

Parents who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming/apps and use them together with children, because this is how toddlers learn best. Letting children use media by themselves should be avoided.

Children 2 and older 

Limit screen use to no more than 1 hour or less per day of high-quality programming. Co-view or co-play with your children, and find other activities to do together that are healthy for the body and mind (e.g., reading, teaching, talking, and playing together).

Remember, all children need enough rest, time outside, physical activity (one hour a day) and plenty of time spent away from media. 

Make sure your family has media-free time to spend together, maybe during dinner in the evening, and media-free spaces, like your child’s bedroom. Children should not sleep with devices in their bedrooms, and that includes TVs, computers, and smartphones.