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Kids and Screen Time: A Guide For Parents

Updated: May 10

As parents, many of us worry about the amount of screen time our children are exposed to. Are they spending too much time watching TV, playing video games or apps, or browsing the internet? Does this exposure have negative effects on their development?

Pathfinder Health is here to provide some clarity and help you find the right balance.

In this article, we'll take a look at some of the research on screen time and discuss the possible implications. We'll also provide some realistic tips for managing screen time for your family.

In this article:

How is screen time used today?

The effects of screen time on children

Delayed language development

Delayed social and cognitive development

Increased risk of obesity

Increased Risk of ADHD

Behavior problems

Screen time recommendations

Screen time real talk

The Takeaway

How is screen time used today?

What counts as "screen time"?

For purposes of child development, "screen time" refers to a child's use and consumption of television, video games, smartphone apps, social media, and any other digital media content.

"Screen time" generally does not include video chatting with friends or relatives or reading eBooks with a parent or caregiver (as long as the eBooks do not have sound or visual effects).

Both of these activities involve human interaction in a way that regular screen time usually does not.

How much screen time are children getting?

According to surveys by Common Sense Media, children's average daily screen time is as follows:

The vast majority of this time is spent watching TV and videos. The amounts of time spent consuming other types of content break down to:

Source: Common Sense Media

This is a drastic change over the last few decades. To provide some perspective, in 1970 the average child began to regularly watch TV when they were 4 years old.

Today, the average child begins interacting with digital media at 4 months. And thanks to the prevalence of smartphones and smart home devices, the amount and variety of content has exploded, along with the times and places a child can use a screen.

The effects of screen time on children