Managing media

How much time do kids spend with media?

A recent Kaiser Family Foundation study found that kids ages 8-18 spend about 7.5 hours/day with media – and nearly 11 hours/day when you include time spent multitasking.


How can all this time with media affect kids’ development?

Research has shown that all of this screen time can impact everything from kids’ health to how ready they are for school. And it can have a lasting impact. For example, a 2009 study by the University of Minnesota found that kids who watch more TV than their peers during middle and high school years have less healthy diets five years later.

It also means that learning to balance media usage has become an essential part of growing up. Just as kids learn not to eat too much candy, they must learn how to manage their media diets.


How much time should parents allow their kids to spend with media?

It really depends on your child and what you as a parent feel is best for your family (though the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no TV at all for kids under the age of 2). That said, it's really important that parents make sure their kids are balancing their media intake with different sensory experiences, physical activity, and social interaction because we know from childhood development experts that these elements are key to healthy growth. Here are three good guidelines to keep in mind:

  1. Balance – make sure your kid is getting a varied mix of activities that strengthen their bodies, brains, and social skills. When kids are really young, nothing compares to interaction with you and the outdoors. As they get older, it’s good for kids to have some time during the day where they’re idle, unplugged, and maybe even bored – it can help kids develop self-awareness.
  2. Look for quality websites, apps, and other programs that stimulate imagination, abstract thinking, and even cooperative play.
  3. Enjoy media with your kids. Sharing the experience with them allows you to know what they're doing, what questions they have, and also strengthens your bond with your kids.

How can parents choose good media for their kids?

Our advice is to do your homework and know your kid. Because every kid is different, and every family has different values, concerns, and, of course, likes and dislikes. And what’s totally appropriate for one, say, 14-year-old, may be completely off the mark for another one. Read reviews. Watch the show, visit the website, or listen to the song by yourself. See how the subject matter matches up to your child’s current situation and maturity. If you don’t like what you see or hear, explore alternatives. Common Sense Media reviews thousands of movies, TV shows, websites, albums, books, and even apps and compiles lists like positive TV role models for girls and best preteen TV that may be good starting points.


For more media management tips for parents from Common Sense Media, visit:

Setting Screen Limits

Tips for a Healthy Media Diet

What’s Better for Kids:  Computers, TV, or Games?

Gaming Tips