How Much Screen Time is Too Much? Check Our Chart

 

 

In my experience as a child psychologist, I’ve found that parents just want one set of screen time limits that holds true for all kids. I really wish it were that simple. Not only does age matter, but development, individual interests, and a host of personal needs must also be considered. In addition, a child’s skill sets impact the best schedules and structure for kids’ screen time. Can they get their homework done independently? Do they have the judgement to stay away from inappropriate content? How much screen time is too much? And is it possible to get too little?

There are so many things to consider. This straightforward chart can help you choose the screen time schedule that works best for your individual child by taking into account their needs and personality. These schedules are not set in stone! You should remain flexible — mix and match, tweak, and alter your screen time limits as needed. I suggest that you try out a schedule for at least two weeks before shifting in order to accurately gauge what works for you and your kids. Setting screen time limits works best when you consider a child’s overall Play Diet.

You’ll find even more information about these schedules and how to enforce them in my book, Playing Smarter In a Digital World.

How much screen time is too much?

Match your kids to a schedule.
Schedule:
Best for Children Who:
One hour per day

Recreational video game/screen time is limited to an hour every day.This schedule is very common and is based on scientific research.

  • need structure and routine
  • can’t limit themselves
  • need time to do homework or struggle at school
  • spend too much time by themselves
When schoolwork is completed

This schedule is simple, screen time is unlimited after all schoolwork has been completed for the day. This could result in a lot of screen time.

  • like video games, dislike school and schoolwork
  • are good students but lack self-control
  • have multiple outside interests and find school to be challenging
Balanced in your own way

This schedule relies on existing limits on activities like time with peers or time spent talking on the phone and focuses on balancing screen time with everything else.

 

  • are well-rounded and high-functioning at school
  • have other interests that they regularly pursue, including physical activities
  • want more screen time and can prove it isn’t interfering with school
No screen time during the week

This schedule limits children to screen time only on the weekends. This is a good approach for children with addictive tendencies and challenges at school.

 

 

  • can only focus on video games and don’t transition well
  • are reluctant to try new activities
  • are affected by processing speed issues and need more time with schoolwork
  • need to improve on school performance and effort
Anytime, anyplace
This schedule does not limit screen time, and is not recommended for younger children. 
  • are healthy, well-functioning teens who can self-regulate
  • are actively involved in other activities and play, and not overly involved with technology
  • love technology and want to prove that they can do great in school and other activities
Only educational

This schedule allows children to have a lot of screen time but only on educational games and tasks. This schedule characterizes non-educational screen time as expendable, and may result in disagreements over what is considered “educational.”

 

  • are overly engaged in video games and need more educational opportunities
  • view themselves as poor learners
  • have parents who fear the impact of technology on culture
Never

This schedule does not allow access to digital technologies at all. May be the default schedule for individuals who have no interest in technology. However, deliberately restricting kids from technology jeopardizes their social relationships, educational progress, and vocational opportunities. This extreme schedule is neither a realistic nor a good strategy in the digital age, and is very unlikely to be a workable strategy for any child. It is better to set firm limits and curate technology use.

  • are not students at a mainstream school, or even members of mainstream society
  • have parents who aren’t concerned with the child’s digital literacy

 

Featured image: Flickr user Bea Represa

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