Parents routinely ask clinicians how much screen time they should allow their children to have. Click on the link below to find our handy one-page guide for setting limits on screen time. Our team at LearningWorks for Kids based these guidelines on the concept of “recreational screen time” rather than on the total amount of time spent in front of a screen. Much of the academic time of children in high school, and increasingly those in middle school, requires the use of a tablet or a laptop, so previous limits do not make sense. We focus on screen-time concerns involving television, video games, social media, and app usage; screen time spent listening to music or researching an area of interest should generally be encouraged. Our basic approach is that digital play involving the use of screens is a normal, healthy part of a balanced “Play Diet”. Kids also need to be encouraged and expected to engage in routine physical, social, creative, and unstructured play, as well.
Our screen time guidelines are based in part on the most recent report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which has recognized that all screen time is not bad. While until recently the AAP treated screen time and other digital play as empty calories and invariably unhealthy, the The October 2015 report changed their approach. Although the AAP now acknowledges that setting limits on screen time requires a bit more nuance, its recommendations are still vague. The newest (2016) AAP screen time rules are more realistic and offer more guidance for parents.
Like the AAP, the team at LW4K acknowledges that not all screen time is the same. Kids don’t use screens just to have fun (we call this digital play), they also use technology to do homework and engage socially with others, including family. We think it is important for parents to focus on setting limits on and getting involved in digital playtime and have long adhered to a model that we call a “Play Diet,” which makes room for unstructured, active, creative, and social play in addition to digital play. Our one-page quick reference guide to setting limits on how much digital playtime children get is broken down by age to help clinicians talk to their patients about screen time and set reasonable limits on digital playtime for children.