How much screen time is OK for my kid(s)?

Kids are spending more time with screen media -- and at younger ages -- than ever before. But there really is no magic number that's "just right." What's more important is the quality of kids' media and how it fits into their -- and your family's -- lifestyle.

The notion of screen time as a one-dimensional activity is changing. Computers, tablets, and smartphones are multipurpose devices that can be used for lots of purposes. Designating their use simply as "screen time" can miss some important variations. The Common Sense Census: Media Use by Tweens and Teens identifies four main categories of screen time.

  • Passive consumption: watching TV, reading, and listening to music
  • Interactive consumption: playing games and browsing the Internet
  • Communication: video-chatting and using social media
  • Content creation: using devices to make digital art or music

Clearly, there's a lot of difference among these activities. But as valuable as many of them can be, it's still important for kids' overall healthy development to balance their lives with enriching experiences found off screens. These tips can help:

  • Pay attention to how your kids act during and after watching TV, playing video games, or hanging out online. If they're using high-quality, age-appropriate media; their behavior is positive; and their screen-time activities are balanced with plenty of healthy screen-free ones, there's no need to worry.
  • If you're concerned about heavy media use, consider creating a schedule that works for your family. This can include weekly screen-time limits, limits on the kinds of screens kids can use, and guidelines on the types of activities they can do or programs they can watch. Make sure to get your kids' input so the plan teaches media literacy and self-regulation, and use this as an opportunity to discover what they like watching, introduce new shows and apps for them to try, or schedule a family movie night.

Finally, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) -- one of the only established organizations to make recommendations on screen time -- offers guidelines that put limits on media exposure. Studies have shown a link between heavy media use and issues such as obesity, lack of sleep, academic challenges, aggression, and other behavior difficulties. However, the AAP will be issuing new recommendations in 2016 emphasizing that not all screen time is equal and that take into account the many different kinds of activities that occur on screens (for example, watching TV is not the same as video-chatting with Grandma). The reality is that most families will go through periods of heavy and light media use, but, so long as there's a balance, kids should be just fine.

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Comments

Teen, 15 years old written by pop

I am 14 years old and on a weekend I can easily get 15 - 20 hours in the whole weekend
Teen, 13 years old written by am6

As a 13 yr old boy I spend no more than 1-1.5 hours a day on a school night with my tablet, PS3, and the TV. Maybe less. On a weekend, no more than 3 hours a day.
Teen, 13 years old written by ChloeAndCommonSense

We do how ever much time they spent on Homework that day is how much time they get on The TV, games etc. We are homeschooling that is. :)
Teen, 14 years old written by num111

In my opinion it varies of what you do online. I mostly use my computer over 3 hours a day, but I mostly chat with my friends, code or do something that improves my intelligence or my social skills. as long that you are doing something that can benefit you in other topics, i would not limit screen time as long as it does not harm your health.
Teen, 14 years old written by xX_4206921_Xx

I'm 14 and I spend about 2 hours on school days and 16 hours on the weekend or holidays but this is not for everyone. Basically the sufficient amount depends on whether you're healthy and getting good grades (I am lean and get straight A's so it's fine for me.)
Teen, 13 years old written by maddie101010

im 13 years old, i don't play video games or anything but spend most of my free time on social media, theres nothing bad with that as your still socialising. Most of my school and outside of school everyone has their own phones and stuff so you can't limit that time when your not even around. if your trying to get teens in particular to limit their use of time i personally wouldn't try to hard, regarding most will not agree with it and sneak around more getting them self into more trouble. This is our generation now and goodluck trying to change it. your better off accepting it as these teens actually know a lot more about it than you do.
Teen, 16 years old written by RenegadeDUDUDU

I am 13 years old (screwed up my birthday xD) and spend around 3.5 hours a day playing video games (may vary) and most of the other time (3hours) on my iPad. Obviously it depends if I have homework or sports and such. I maintain straight A's in most subjects and find that technology is VERY useful. Honestly, if you are smart enough to manage your time with playing video games and doing homework, you deserve to play. Of course, if you are getting bad grades, this is an ENTIRELY new scenario but as long as you are careful, you should be fine.
Teen, 13 years old written by CleverApple

This is very interesting especially the opinions. I think maybe half an hour on weekends and when homework is done on weekdays maybe half an hour. I have a strict screen policy like this and I don't think it's having an affect on my life in fact I like it because I have a lot of free time and am not being lured into a screen all day. And kids shouldn't get so much screen time they don't know how to entertain themselves.
Adult written by tclem271

I would limit screen time to 2 or 3 hours because it is bad for your eyes you would need to get outside and I would not allow it until homework is done
Teen, 13 years old written by Snow9012

Honestly, screen time may be okay for a little but its best not to let children become phone addicts like half of my school. I hardly use my phone and don't have anything else besides my laptop. I feel kids should never rally rely on their games and electronics to make friends or have a social life. Children become more likable when there talking to someone face to face rather than phone to phone or face to phone. Though it is good to let your child learn the digital age of this new generation too young could turn your child into a virtual zombie. The worst is when you don't even know what your child is doing on their electronic. ( Note: though its not good for to much time, don't keep your child locked up from the electronics or completely limit what their allowed to do. Instead try to get them interested in other things such as reading or a sport).
Teen, 13 years old written by universitysimple

I believe the issue is what the child is doing on the screen, not the screen time. I play games/watch YouTube for a total of around 5 hours a day. I rarely use my phone for texting or any forms of social media. I'm not a fan of social media to be honest. I'm in advanced classes and have As in each class. I'm a hothead, but that doesn't come from playing video games. If I were to quit playing my games, I would lose plenty of friends I have made online, some of which I am very close with. I'm not obese, rather skinny actually, and also engage in other activities. Unless your child is unhealthy , looking at things not appropriate for their age, or completely obsessed with media, I see no reason why you should limit the scree time.
Adult written by isaaclee

how much screen time minors should use varies. If a minor needs alone time, technology isn't really a good idea. if your kids use games a lot, why not just buy one. every kid shouldn't have one for themselves, especially tv. you wont believe how many parents let their kids have their own playstations and tv. you only need one. but monitor your kids academic success because if kids fail their classes, there is no need to let them play games.
Kid, 11 years old

Well i would say 5 hours a day max and 2 hours minimum. You see staring into a screen causes eyestrain as a result it can cause migraine (very nasty headaches) it defiantly ruined my summer.
Teen, 13 years old written by Randomanatee

I am a MASSIVE gamer and a super nerd and I think sometimes gaming and electronics can get in the way of my homework. But we Teens need some alone time (as most of us are going through big emotional and physical changes) so that we can get a grip on life. I think one think that has really started my love for technology is my social anxiety (yes i am clinically diagnosed) where I am quite antisocial and prefer to play video games instead of going out with friends. I still do very well in school (B's and up) but its just my homework situation that is going down. Parents should be watching how much time their kids spend, but not restricting it completely because we need alone time. TL;DR Teens need time to unwind and get a grip on life, so don't restrict electronic time completely, just be a bit flexible, and adjust to the homework/schoolwork situation of your kids .
Kid, 11 years old

i will be totally honest. i spend the majority of my time on youtube, wattpad, google docs, skype and the sims. it is definitely time consuming because you can get pretty into it. even with all this time spent on the internet, i remain doing an above average job in school and weigh an average weight for my age and height. the only problems i have are lack of sleep (actually because of my mild insomnia) and social anxiety (which is not caused by my amount of screen time because before i had this much, i had anxiety). because of my screen time, i don't get outside very much but still maintain a healthy weight because of my vegetarian diet. also, the things i go on can actually benefit me. wattpad allows me to read books based on the fandoms i am in that actually interest me, google docs allows me to write stories in the typing fashion i feel more comfortable with, skype allows me to talk to my two best friends when we can't see each other in person and the sims allows my inner creativity to be let loose. if it weren't for the screen time i've had, i wouldn't know as much as i do today. and another thing, my physical health is perfectly fine.
Teen, 14 years old written by GlobalCritics

As long as i can remember, this is pretty true. Kid's spend far too much time on the PC or Tablet, IPhone, etc. and even i spend too much time texting with my friends, but there is a way to fix this, I limit myself, to as much as 3 hours, to as little as 1 hour, depending on what i am doing. I used YouTube a lot aside from texting, but now i use YouTube for educational purposes only. I also used to play online games, such as Roblox, Minecraft, and the others, i quit those, which is the path to sucsess. So, if you can take my message in good way, that would be nice, and you should follow my path. ~GlobalCritics~
Adult written by leod

Most kids like to watch TV a kid should have at least an hour of screen time to help show them Conflict and Problem solving ability every parent says it rots your brain but honestly TV isn't bad for you it's just that most parents will look at TV and say no
Teen, 13 years old written by Minkah

In my houses no one is allowed screen time during the week to allow us to focus on our school work. On each day of the weekend we are allowed 2 hours of media time, this does not include kindle reading. Reading is very important in the family and reading benefits everyone. Sometimes we just sit around reading together. Writing on a laptop is also ok before bed or during the day.
Teen, 13 years old written by johnl621

3 or 4 hours on the week end and on school day 2 or 1hour and 30 min just because i think kids need to take a break and go and watch tv and fun time
Parent written by Jayce8654

My 10, and 7 year old sons have grown up in an era of vast technology. They have had too much screen time at times. It varies a little if its a special day. My 10 year old has been in front of a computer on occasion or everyday since he was 1. Its to each his own, eye of the beholder in my opinion. However, my 10 year old in 5th grade reads and does math 3 grades ahead and my 7 year old 2 grades ahead in both. I am not saying the computer, tablets, xbox, etc. have made any impact to the positive nor negative; just facts. They are also very very well behaved. No problems at school. I make them take turns with a video game and time them 15-20 minutes at a time, so it breaks it up and they might get 2 turns like this; or 3-4 if its a snow day from school, or what it may be. As a father I monitor what they watch, and play as far as video games, and I feel its my job to determine what is ok for them. Great grades, good behavior, and all around great kids, I let them play screen time a bit too much, so sew me eh? I do think all children are different. So you must as a parent gauge your childs level of maturity and intelligence as for each show or videos game and screen time. I also have a almost 3 year old daughter, she watches a lot of tv, sometimes. Peppa Pig, and PBS shows and my favorite BabyFirst on DirectTV. Though I also monitor and limit her time as I do with the boys; I am a bit more lax when it comes to my princess. But, it is the same situation, she is so intelligent the daycare workers say she should be in Kindergarten ASAP. She counts extraordinarily well, known her ABC's for a year now, and overall is more articulate and knowledgeable then most 4-5 year olds. Again, just facts. Screen time did not make my kids geniuses; My Wife probably deserves most of the credit; reading books, and playing with them hands on from a very early, early age. To the good of children. Thanks
Adult written by leod

15-20 Minutes isn't enough time for them to finish a show, If you stop them right in the middle of a show it will just make them want it even more.
Parent of a 6, 9, and 12 year old written by Rocky1lingo2

My three children are at different stages but all love tablets, Xbox, PC and TV. My 3 are are allowed to have access to these within reason after homework, dinner and any chores throughout the week including school nights but rather than try to monitor and limit 3 people's time i decided that every week on Tuesdays and Thursday no one is allowed on any type of computer or console. At a rough guess they probably spend 1-2hrs on the days they are allowed. They know the rules on Tuesday and Thursdays, these are the set days and they never hassle me about it, they go off, do other things, play games, read, draw and this seems to work really well in our house. I don't limit at weekends as long as homework is completed but my eldest still spends more time on it at weekends than the younger two as they always have friends invites, parties and school event happening. I use to worry a lot about how much time they were on these but I definitely find it easier to manage having agreed with them clear set days off. I haven't got time for a daily debate and chasing them to get off the computer and all the arguments is causes. This works really well in our house and makes it a lot less stressful than some of my friends households.
Parent of a 10 and 14 year old written by annern

I have 2 sons, a a 10 yo who is "neuro-typical" and a 14 yo who is "neuro-atypical" and very immature (he has mild Aspergers and severe ADHD) . The family rule is a tablet/computer screen time limit of 1 hour on weekdays and 1-2 on weekends depending on how things are going. T.V time can be an additional hour if all h.w. is done. Following these limits are really really tough for my older son d/t his intensity and willfulness and also for me as the parent who supervises all screen/ tech time. My 10yo does ok with the limits and some days doesn't even use all his time. Another challenge is that my husb thinks the kids shouldn't do any screen time but just read books, but he "tolerates" the rules I have set. I never expected this startk discrepency in parenting styles but that's a huge topic in and of itself! imho not allowing any tech time is not appropriate, b/c as we know not all tech activities are mindless/harmful, plus being tech competent can be a good social tool. We've never had any gaming system in the house, only a laptop and now tablets. I do feel that screen time <2hr/day is healthier than hours and hours in front of a screen and hopefully sets the stage for more varied interests and more physical activity. Both my kids play multiple sports, do extra-curricular things at school, and have good grades. My 10 yo is typical in that he complains when his time is up and sometimes tries to get more time added, but he transitions without a big fuss. In contrast, my neuro-challenged 14yo at times gets almost frantic about finishing up a game like Madden football or Clash of Clans when the 5-min warning on the screen comes on. (After trying a few diff parental control apps I now use "Screen time" and the accompanying app "Screen time remote"). His anxiety can be palpable so I'm constantly trying new approaches such as having him set the plan for his time (e.g. 1/2 hour after school then a 1/2 hour after h.w.) and we both confirm that's the plan. Usually he can't get off once he starts so he uses the entire hour at one sitting. Now it's also social media problems. This year he seems to be making a few friends which has always been a problem d/t his willfulness, intensity etc. This school year he goes on Instagram and Kik (doesn't have a smartphone) and at first that seemed positive, but sadly over the past week I realized he's getting very manipulative and lying to gain access to a screen to check Instagram or Kik by asking to log on "for school" but then goes on Instagram. I've decided to tell him he will lose all screen time the next day if he does that again. This is all so tiring! Setting screen time/ use of tech rules for the family, and figuring out how to use various apps (safe search, screen time limits, etc) to enforce the rules is driving me crazy. I imagine that many of these behaviors and dynamics are not limited to kids with significant challenges like my son's, so I wonder if there could be an article written/posted on this site that would help parents like me and kids like mine who are really struggling, to find ways to cope better with the tough tech issues of modern life.
Parent written by HMBMom

Thanks for your post. I feel the same way you do (driving me crazy monitoring screen time!). I also have two boys: a 10 year-old (who is neuro-atypical and exhibits some of the same behaviors your son does), a 12 year old who is "neuro-typical", and a 14 year old girl also "neuro-typical". I've been looking for suggestions from other parents here and am writing up some rules as we speak. Thanks for sharing! I'l post in a few weeks to let everyone know how it's going.
Parent of a 12 and 17 year old written by LiveLoveLead

I think it depends on the child. I have a 20-year-old, 17-year-old (bio kids) and a 12-year-old (foster son). My kids are good students, responsible, volunteer in the community and attend church regularly. I put restrictions on video game, TV and computer time during school days and allow more time on weekends, holidays and summer, with less restrictions when they are in high school, as long as homework and chores are being done. I found that if my kids have unlimited use of electronics (computer or video games especially), they will choose that over other activities. When my oldest was younger, he wasn't allowed to play video games on school days. With homework, church activities and sports, he had enough on his plate, and if he knew he could play video games, that would be all he would want to do. Same problem happened when my 6th grader had unlimited use of the computer after his homework and chores were done. He started not wanting to read or go to TaeKwonDo (which he loved before we got the extra laptop.) If he knows he can use the computer, he doesn't want to do anything else, he'll sit on the computer for hours, but when his computer time is restricted to 1 hour on school days, he wants to go to TaeKwonDo and will read more than the required 30 minutes. Kids don't often make the wisest decisions and don't usually understand the long term effects of their choices...that's why they have parents, to help guide and teach them from their experience and wisdom. This is day and age of people wanting and expecting immediate gratification, causing unhealthy choices. We don't let our kids eat candy and ice cream every day for breakfast because it's not healthy for them, and the same goes for over indulging on electronics too. There are tons of studies that prove there are many consequences of too much time on electronics. I know as an adult I even get stressed and overwhelmed trying to keep up with all my emails, Facebook, Pinterest and articles I want to look up or share. I often stay up way later than I should trying to catch up on emails or unable to get off the computer...like typing this right now...LOL. As parents, we should want to teach our kids to make healthy choices when it comes to screen time, just like anything else that affects their lives.
Teen, 15 years old written by considermythoughts

I am a 15 year old girl in three above grade-level classes. I personally believe that after lots of time-consuming homework us teenagers need some time to unwind. Giving us limits and not letting us discover ourselves how much is too much is not good in my opinion. I had a friend who in middle school had very strict limits on everything. Sadly, her mom died in a car accident and in high school she no longer had limits because her dad couldn't keep up with them. She then had a few bad days, figuring out her own personal limits. Her grades went down, and she became friends with the wrong people. She started realizing the things everyone else realized before. But I agree, don't completely let your kids free from bounds. Teens should not have any headphones in or electronics on during meals. But remember, us teens are under lots of pressure but music and YouTube can help relieve us from those stresses. Think when you were a teen, and go easier on you kids.
Teen, 13 years old written by DexterMorgan

Chya brah. No I'm just playing. I agree with you. But I think it depends on the maturity level and factors. I mean I'm 13 and watching house of cards, scandal and the walking dead(not really a thing to keep as far away into the depths of the earth show).
Kid, 11 years old

It would be helpful if it didn't have the AAP tie-in because I have unlimited video game time after homework and dinner, and I weigh a normal amount, sleep well, am 2 grades ahead in most of my subjects, and get all As, am not overly aggressive, and have no behavior difficulties with the exception of my "special needs", which at this point isn't much of a problem. They just want to ruin everything. 1-2 hours? RIDICULOUS!
Kid, 11 years old

I agree 1-2 hours is insane i mean i guess 8 hours a day is to much (that can cause eye strain then headaches) my opinion 3-4 a day
Adult written by GamerWhoReviews

Depends on the child age, my reccomendation (Total screen time) : Ages 1-3: 20 mins Ages 4-5: 45 mins Ages 6-8: 1 hour Ages 8-10: 1hr 30 mins Ages 11-12: 2 hours Ages 13+: Dont bother having a screen time limit anymore
Kid, 10 years old

as much time as they want while doing work or something constructive like writing a book and 85 minutes on a timer for iPod or computer. Also 2 hours for tv or one hour and a half if they watch it on the computer or netflix.
Parent of a 13 year old written by fleecy34

I have a 13 year old and I let him have 1 hour in the morning and 1 hour in the afternoon
Teen, 13 years old written by Ki-RBT

Personally, I am on my computer much of the time, but the real issue is what kids (myself included) are doing on the computer. If they're learning new things or being creative, then that's clearly not such a problem as it is often made out to be. So long as there are no obvious behavioral or academic difficulties as studies show may occur, screen time can be a beneficial form of entertainment.
Teen, 13 years old written by fangkitty

I, (a child the age of 13), personally believe that I have no academic challenges, I am not aggressive, and yes, I do lack sleep, but that's mainly because when I go to sleep, I stare at my wall lost in thought and find it better to just spend time online and be entertained rather than stare blankly at something until I'm asleep, which could take hours. As far as obesity goes, yes, I am quite fat, but I'm dieting and exercising unlike before, and still getting plenty of screen time (7-8 hrs), and maintaining A's and B's in school. (Mainly A's except P.E because I hate running the mile, and Algebra because it's super confusing. ) But yeah. I don't know what kind of studies are being done, but basing the results off of myself, find them very incorrect and suggest doing more accurate studies.
Teen, 16 years old written by brendanl1998

Watching a lot of television is not a bad thing. I'm sixteen and I watch hours of television every day. I am also an honors student who is in five college level classes with all "A's". Television is not bad if it doesn't interfere with other things, such as homework and studying. It is perfectly fine to watch television as much as you want, as long as you balance it with other things. I think it is very misguided when parents put limits on their children's television watching. In my experience, whenever there is a kid who has something limited by their parents, the second they are away from the parents, they do as much of it as possible. My friends whose parents restrict what food they eat want to eat everything when they are at someone else's house, because they don't learn how to choose what to eat for themselves. The same goes with how much television a person watches. Kid's don't learn how to figure out how much television is right for them when their parents make arbitrary restrictions on the amount of television they can watch everyday. They are not going to turn into television addicts without restrictions because they will learn how much television per day is right by themselves and actually turn off the tv on their own, instead of taking every available second of tv time allocated to them by their parents. Everyone, especially teenagers, want something much more when it is restricted versus when they can choose how much of it to do.
Educator and Parent of a 4, 5, and 12 year old written by Junrbug

Appropriate screen time is a serious topic for me. I am concerned about eye development and how "moving light and light intensities" can alter brain development.
Kid, 10 years old

I'm 10 years old I play various hour of video games and I always get As and Bs. Dont have "lack of sleep, agression orother behavior challenges". Thither are my freinds, there not stupid and mean just becaus they watch tv or play video games. So those studies were probably wrong.
Teen, 13 years old written by buzzerb

Adults sould just say what my friends parents do. Once you've done your hw do what you like but be sensible.
Kid, 10 years old

I agree as well. BTW, I'm 10 too! Kids aren't really influenced by it but should do other things as well.
Teen, 14 years old written by Basicly No One

The thing is, yes I am 13 and maybe there is something I am looking over, but I play for atleast 10 hours a day (on weekends and days off) and I play with my friends all the time. I get straight A's and I'm in geometry for math. I am 5'6 113 and play 4 sports. My point is you can play for hours on end and still be none of those. You just need to find he mix of good and bad.
Educator and Parent written by Meghan Johnson

I feel the issue should be less about screen time, and more about what the child is doing on the screen. I wouldn't limit their time with paper, or another medium. If they are reading, writing letters, researching, using YouTube to learn a new way to make friendship bracelets, studying flashcards, I'm not going to focus on number of minutes. I tend more to focus on sedentary v. active time.
Parent written by DaveMCO

During the school year we typically don't set limits but screens and screen time is typically the first thing taken away as punishment. Due to no camps that made sense the 10 year old had a daily limit of 3 hours for the summer. This included any time on iPod, computer, PS3, Nintendo DS or anything with a screen really. It was interesting to watch how he would provide me updates and try and budget his time so that he and his friend can play together instead of him just becoming a veggie on the couch for hours on end.
Parent written by nerissa@stanfor...

We have our kids "earn" their screen time by reading. They look at the time when they start reading and when they stop, and add that to their "bank" of minutes. Then when they start on the ipad or computer, we set a timer for 30 mins, for example, and when it goes off then they know it's time to stop. Also we require that they read the books which go along with popular movies. There are a number of excellent books which have been made into decent films which even parents can enjoy. Examples: Bridge To Terabithia, Tuck Everlasting, Mathilda, Anne of Green Gables, Coraline, Nim's Island, Despereaux, Return to Nim's Island, Harry Potter series, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, How To Train Your Dragon, The Lightening Thief, The Hunger Games, Enders Game, The Secret Garden, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Alice in Wonderland, etc.
Adult written by GamerWhoReviews

I used to use a similar strategy to that but I find when kids get to the age of 12+ you cant control there screen time at all cause' they wont listen
Parent of a 9, 11, and 13 year old written by Raven Avery

A "bank" of minutes sounds like a wonderful idea! It's the perfect way to balance the activities as well as encourage reading and other activities. With my kids, the problem is that they don't spend as much time outside as they should, so I might use that instead of reading, but thanks for that great idea!