How To Limit Screen Time According to Pediatricians

The digital world has become a constant presence in family life. Whether it’s keeping your kids distracted while out at a restaurant, helping with homework problems, or watching a movie together–technology has the potential to support a family in many ways. However, there is still dangers associated with allowing your child unlimited access to media. How can parents know what boundaries are right for their child?

So what better advice could we possibly ask for than guidelines from the experts at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Not only is the AAP giving parents an updated guide on gadget usage and kids but they have also issued a free tool where parents can create custom screen timetables for each of their children.

Limit Screen Time Based on Your Child’s Age

The AAP released new recommendations “to help families maintain a healthy media diet,” and while the guidelines are based on different age groups, the AAP does suggest to parents and caregivers that ultimately, what they should do is “develop a family media plan that takes into account the health, education and entertainment needs of each child as well as the whole family.”

The recommendations advised by the AAP based on age groups include the following:

18 months or younger: For this age group, the AAP recommends parents should “avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting.”

18 to 24 months: If parents want to introduce their children to digital media, then the AAP recommends they choose “high-quality programming, and watch it with their children to help them understand what they’re seeing.”

2 to 5 years: The AAP recommends limiting screen time to one hour per day of high-quality programs at this age. The AAP suggests co-viewing the programs with children to help the latter understand what they are watching and learn to “apply it to the world around them.”

6 years and older: For this age group, the AAP recommends parents “place consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media,” while also ensuring that the usage of this media does not take over physical activity, sleep time and “other behaviors essential to health.”


Writing for Time magazine, Markham Heid notes how these new guidelines have dispensed with “a lot of the old ‘less is more’ approach to screens, and instead focus on a more nuanced approach to kids and their time spent with computers, TVs and other digital devices.”

Heid adds, quoting Dr. David Hill, a pediatrician and chair of the AAP’s Council on Communications and Media, that what is “crucial for kids’ emotional and cognitive development” is the engagement time kids have with adults. “Simply watching a parent cook dinner or clean the house—especially if the parent is explaining to the child what he’s doing and why—can be powerful, Hill says. From boosting your child’s vocabulary to helping form his ability to read faces and emotions, this sort of interaction is crucial.”

The Family Media Tool For a Custom Media Plan

The online tool created by the AAP is an easy one to use and it will help you create custom plans for each of your kids, so that you can bring more balance in your children’s life between live interactions and the online world.

Some of the ways this tool can help you to create balance in the home include the following:

Customization – Not only for each child but also depending on the requirements of the family.

Devising restrictions – So your children are aware of media curfews, screen free areas, and other times that should be media free such as during homework, at school or in the stroller.

Co-viewing rules – For your children to know when they need an adult by their side to view a program or play a game.

Alternatives to screen time – From dog walking to reading, being with friends and playing outside, the tool also suggests alternatives to using technology.

Digital citizens – Detailing rules about conduct such as standing up for others online and not becoming a cyberbully.

Once you have ticked the right boxes, then you can print the timetable for your kid to keep.


Use a Parental Control App to Enforce the Guidelines

The AAP has made it easy to create a custom timetable for our kids but it doesn’t mean our kids will automatically follow this table, especially since we are not always with our kids and most of them will have a phone on them. Accordingly, a parental control app can be of great use to you, to monitor your kids’ online activity in your own time, without having to take away your child’s phone every time.

A parental control app, like Teensafe, can enable you to block apps and web browsers at specific times, so that your kids will be automatically reminded that it is time to move away from the screen. You can have their phone in airplane mode, except for incoming phone calls, so that when your kids are at school they can focus, and before bed, so that they can concentrate on getting enough sleep.

Find Balance Amid Chaos

It can be challenging to create balance in a world where everyone has become so dependent on the online world. However, with the guidance of the AAP, as well as with the help of online tools and apps, we can learn to give our family more structure and remind everyone how wonderful it is to take a break from technology.

Will you be following the AAP’s guidelines for your kids? Share your thoughts below!

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