Screen Time for Kids

It’s a question often whispered amongst parents.  We don’t want to ask out loud for fear of judgment, but most of us admit to using it.  The TV.  The question is… how much is too much?

I spoke on air recently about screen time.  If you missed it on the radio, you might like to listen to the podcast below:

96Five Radio Podcast

Here are some of my thoughts:

  • I’m not against television viewing.  In fact, I quite often review children’s programs here on the blog.  BUT… I think as parents we should select what we allow our kids to watch, rather than leaving the TV to run.
  • The maximum time a child should spend looking at a screen is 2hrs a day.  Some new research is suggesting that children under two shouldn’t watch any television at all.  Keep this in mind especially if you have older children watching while your little one is in the room.
  • One of the biggest problems with television is what it doesn’t do.  It doesn’t converse with your child. It doesn’t improve your child’s fine or gross motor skills.  It doesn’t give them hands on experience.  It doesn’t replace the real world, or real people.  Make sure your child’s real experiences far outweigh their virtual ones.
  • Screen time includes more than TV.  If your child has access to a computer, iPod, iPad, iPhone or other smart phone it all counts towards screen time.  Two hours can pass quickly. It’s up to parents to monitor and limit use.
  • Use screen time when it best benefits your routine. For our family, it’s the late afternoon.  Usually the kids play outside in the afternoon, then they come in for some quiet screen time while I cook dinner.  Saturday mornings are the only mornings the TV is allowed to go on.

For a fantastic list of alternatives to screen time to try with your kids, check out this article “Installing Speed Bumps to Television Viewing” by Little Eco Footprints over at Childhood101.

14 thoughts on “Screen Time for Kids

  1. I listened to a Paediatrician speak on this matter on our local radio recently – he wasn’t so strict with the 2 hrs deal.. I do remember him saying that its a good starting point for young children.
    Perhaps – screen leisure time could be limited .. but kids are doing more school work in front of a screen – homework and research, many documentaries are very valuable.
    Always worth discussing… and checking… and working out what suits the family and individual children.
    Great discussion point.

  2. Don’t forget the commercials – I’d rather not have the toy marketing shoved down my kids throat.

    We’ve found that once you get used to tv only on the weekend for a movie or two, there is a lot of amazing play, reading, writing and art that happens.

    Great post!

  3. Screen time is a tricky one. I have a little girl who is doing…always doing. She will stop and glance at the TV on the way to the next thing to do, however the TV stays on for background noise and, I am slightly ashamed to admit it, keep me on time…I know that if I haven’t started dinner and playschool has started I had better get a wriggle on or bedtime is a disaster! This kind of screen time is extremely hard to quantify :(

  4. On a day that’s going according to plan we will only have a couple of hours of TV in the afternoon or less. I’ve noticed that my toddler is far more likely to be happy and play independently more through the day with less meltdowns if she doesn’t watch the TV in the morning.

    But, there are days where one or all of us are sick, or I’m tired or I’m trying to catch up on a whole heap of work where the dread box will be on all day.

  5. Hi Squigglemum,
    I love that you are my Mummy conscience!
    But I love even more that you offer solutions and guidelines – another good link to the Screen speed bumps!
    A solution to my guilty feelings.
    Enjoy following you.

  6. Thanks for this article, as with all parenting decisions, it’s an interesting one. I actually find the opposite to you, watching television is so mainstream that I feel very uncomfortable (and often judged) admitting that my nearly 2 year old never watches TV.

  7. I’ve definitely noticed that 2 hours is THE limit for my 5yo munchkin (and has been since he was 3). It doesn’t matter the quality of content, or how engaged he is. Under that, and he will readily engage in other activities afterwards. More than that and he turns into THAT CHILD! I have no idea about the science behind this, but I can assure you it is very real, as one who as yearned for “just a bit more work time” and regretted it for the rest of the day (screen time is often mornings when he is home during the day), or while trying to get him to bed in the evenings. Crazy, but true!

  8. when my older children were little they were exposed to far, far less screen time than my younger ones. I do see a difference and it does concern me. In fact I have just announced to my children we are going to try to limit once again. When too much screen time occurs I see a loss of creative play and more irritableness. Thanks for your post, you’ve helped me redouble my effort:)

  9. I have noticed the difference when I babysit for different friends. Kids who watch a lot of tv don’t seem to be as good at finding ways to entertain themselves or thinking of things they’d like to do. Kids who have less seem better able to think outside the square – “maybe we could make a huge cubby house and eat dinner inside!!”… I wonder if it has any long term affect once they’re adults?

  10. This is a hard one. Now that i have had No2, i sometimes use the tv as a babysitter. Certainly not all day or even for hours. But for the evening feed or if i haven’t been able to fit in a shower, i’ll allow my daughter to watch a bit of Dora the explorer.

  11. That is so true ‘One of the biggest problems with television is what it doesn’t do’. I worry more about what LIttle Eco is missing out while she watches TV, than the effects of actually watching.

    Thanks for the mention :-)

  12. I love this, and love that you mentioned how it can fit into a routine. My husband grew up with the TV on 24/7 and I grew up rarely watching it. We’ve gotten to a place now that makes up both happy.
    Sometimes I let the kids watch a 30-minute show when they wake up in the morning, while I get my coffee and check email. Then it’s off all day. They have movie time from 6-7pm, after baths, then stories next, then prayers and bedtime. It’s never on more than 1 1/2 hrs. I feel okay with that, and it gives me time to catch up with my husband. We don’t have cable anyway, and we choose their Netflix movies.

  13. My first blog was called “Turn Off the Televsion” and I really noticed a huge change in children when I turnedd off the t.v. and gave them a craft corner instead – it was like their imaginations were set free.
    Stay tuned to my blog as I start to explore whether or not so called “educating” technology is good or bad…

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