Kids and screen time: How much is too much and what should they watch?

  • Family
  • Sunday, 03 Mar 2024

The average American toddler spends up to two hours per day in front of a screen, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. — Dreamstime/TNS

FOR decades, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has been studying the effects screens and media have on children. It’s natural for parents and caregivers to be concerned about how much screen time their children are getting, especially when digital screens are everywhere, even at school.

Dr Nusheen Ameenuddin, a Mayo Clinic paediatrician and member of the AAP, shares some recommendations to make it simple for families to manage their technology use.

“The key thing that I would want all parents to know is that screens aren’t all good or all bad. A lot of this depends on how you use screens,” says Dr Nusheen.

Dr Nusheen says there’s no evidence that television shows or screen time for young kids have any benefit. Therefore, it’s best to try to avoid screen time for kids under two years old, with the exception of video chatting with grandparents or other relatives.

“For kids who are between two and five years of age, no more than about one hour of high-quality educational content, ideally with little to no commercial time,” she says.

For kids five and older, it’s a little more nuanced.

“Once kids are five years and older, and they’re in school, we used to say no more than two hours of screen time a day of noneducational content. But we understand that that’s hard to do. And then oftentimes kids are using screens for really good reasons, for doing schoolwork. So really, what we’ve started to say is let’s make sure it is not taking the place of other important activities, whether that’s schoolwork or physical activity, and certainly sleep,” says Dr Nusheen.

“There is potentially a benefit for children in the preschool age with high-quality educational content. There are wonderful shows that have been around for decades that are really focused on teaching kids,” she says.

Dr Nusheen says a little bit of high-quality television can help kids learn about other people and cultures.

“There was actually a study done, and as much as we talk about how we don’t want to spend a lot of time in front of screens, there is a benefit. There can be diversity enhancement. When children see children of other backgrounds playing with each other, they’re actually more likely to say, when shown a group of pictures, that they might want to play with a child of a different background from what they might be used to or from their own background,” says Dr Nusheen. – Mayo Clinic News Network/Tribune News Service

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