How to Reduce Your Child’s Daily Screen Time

These days it is easier than ever for adults and children to be exposed to excessive screen time, especially with online learning during the pandemic and all the technological advances being made. Cell phones, computers, television, and tablets are all a part of almost everyone’s daily lives. Although technology is helpful and has proven to have positive effects on learning, too much screen time, especially from ages 0-5, can affect childrens’ development, relationships, and behaviors.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), it is recommended that screen time should be discouraged for any child under the age of 18 months (except for video chat), and that children age 2 and older should have no more than 1 hour of screen time per day.

The article from AAP, “Media and Young Minds” states that excessive screen time in children has been associated with:

  • inactivity and higher risk for obesity
  • less sleep
  • Cognitive, language, and social/emotional delays

The article also states that educational television programs like Sesame Street, and PBS programing and apps have been shown positive outcomes for cognition and social skills; however, other apps and television programs that market educational benefits may not always prove to be effective and beneficial. In addition, watching television and playing on apps or other programs with an adult present has been shown to be an added benefit since the adult is there to explain and help understand the content that is being presented to the child.

Reducing screen time may feel impossible in some instances, especially during online learning. However, you can try following some of these tips and suggestions to reduce screen time and the negative effects it can have on your child.

  • Replace sedentary screen time with screen time that encourages movement (yoga, dancing, etc.)
  • Encourage hands on activities and toys for your child that promote development of language, social skills, and gross/fine motor skills (books, board games, card games, etc.)
  • Eliminate screens from the bedroom and discourage screen time 1 hour before bedtime
  • Eliminate background media during mealtimes, and turn off screens when they are not in use (computer, TV, tablet, phones, etc.)
  • Establish a family game night during a time usually spent watching television
  • Try “Tech free Tuesday” (if not possible to go without it all day- go without technology after the school/work day)
  • Eliminate cell phone use during interactions (family games, homework, mealtimes, etc.)
  • Ask yourself is screen time is educational or for entertainment- encourage more educational screen time interactions
  • Participate and interact with your child during screen time to increase engagement and understanding of the content being presented

For more information and details regarding screen time and the article referenced, you can access the full article here:

AAP COUNCIL ON COMMUNICATIONS AND MEDIA. Media and Young Minds. Pediatrics. 2016;138(5):e20162591. https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/138/5/e20162591

-Marla Griswold, OTR/L

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