How do I limit screen time for kids?

After a year or so of relying on screens, how can I change habits?

Limiting screen time after 18 months of reliance on them can be hard for parents. Many families have felt they had no choice when it came to loosening rules on screen time, due to the pandemic and remote learning. Now that most kids are back in school, how can you limit screen time?

Expert recommendations

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers the following guidance for younger children:

  • With the exception of video chatting, no screen time for kids 18 months and younger.
  • For kids 18 to 24 months, no solo screen time use, though high-quality programming and apps can be introduced by caregivers.
  • For kids 2 years and older, no more than an hour a day of screen time. Co-viewing and co-play is highly recommended

The AAP also recommends focus on adequate sleep and good sleep hygiene, which means an age-appropriate bedtime with no screens in the bedroom.

The effect of screen time on kids

Children’s health and wellness experts know the effects of screen time on brain development. Studies show a correlation between excessive screen time and depression, anxiety and suicide among young people. It can be hard for parents who realize the dangers of excessive screen time for kids but struggle to find a balance in their own families. It seems that the more we connect online, the less connected we can be as a family.

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The reality is screens are here to stay, and it’s up to parents to figure out healthy solutions.

How to limit screen time for kids

  • Talk about what is a reasonable amount of screen time. Try to stick to two hours or less per day.
  • Define appropriate use of electronics. Are there sites and apps that should be off-limits?
  • Talk about cyberbullying. What are kids talking about on social media? How do we stand up to bullying and practice compassion and positive communication?
  • Have “Tech Talk Tuesdays.” Discuss what is appropriate to post on social media.
  • Use parental controls. Look for apps that track screen time and create quiet times.
  • Ensure screen-free sleep environments. Sleeping near a small screen or having a TV in the room can lead to sleep issues — and 75% of teens don’t get adequate sleep.
  • Lead by example. Parents need to put their phones down and have face-to-face conversations.