Common sense media screen time

How Much Screen Time Is OK for My Kid(s)?

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By Common Sense Media  |  March 11, 2022

Topics: Screen Time

Kids are spending more time with digital devices -- and at younger ages -- than ever before. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have guidelines to limit screen time. But the reality is there's no magic number that's "just right." What's more important is the quality of kids' content, how it fits into your family's lifestyle, and how your kids engage with it.

Simply calling all device use "screen time" can miss some important differences. Common Sense Research studies identify four main categories of screen time:

  • Passive: mindlessly watching videos or shows, scrolling, vegging out

  • Interactive: playing games, problem-solving

  • Communication: video-chatting, using social media ​

  • Content creation: making digital art or music, coding

Clearly, there are a lot of differences between these activities. And as valuable as many of them can be, it's still important for kids' overall healthy development to balance their lives with enriching experiences away from screens. These tips can help:

  • Pay attention to how your kids act during and after watching TV, playing video games, or hanging out online. There's no need to worry as long as:

    • They're using high-quality and age-appropriate content.

    • Their behavior is positive.

    • Screen time is balanced with other parts of life like sleep, connecting with family and friends, and time outdoors.

  • If you're worried about too much time on devices, consider creating a schedule that works for your family.

    • Include limits on how long kids can use devices, the kinds of devices they can use, and the types of activities or programs they can choose.

    • Get kids' input so the plan teaches critical thinking skills and self-regulation.

    • Find out what they like to watch, introduce new shows and apps for them to try, or plan a family movie night.

The AAP's guidelines allow for some screen time for children younger than 2. For this age group, parental involvement is essential. They recommend the following for parents and caregivers:

  • Under 18 months: Avoid screen time other than video-chatting.

  • Age 18–24 months: Find high-quality programming (if you choose to introduce screen time), and watch or play together.

  • Age 2–5: Limit screen use to one hour per day of high-quality programs.

  • Create a family media plan with consistent rules, and enforce them for older kids.

The reality is that most families will go through periods of heavy and light screen use, but as long as there's a balance, kids should be just fine.

Screen Time in the Age of the Coronavirus

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Common Sense Media's research director explains the science behind the new screen rules.

By Michael Robb  |  January 12, 2022

Topics: Mental Health Screen Time

Parents and caregivers tend to think of guidelines for screen use as a daily maximum amount of time that's OK. But if you look closely at popular recommendations, such as the ones from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the message—even before the coronavirus pandemic—is much more nuanced, and much less focused on time.

For a while now, media researchers have been advocating for a shift from evaluating quantity of screen time to quality of content. If kids are engaged with high-quality content that stokes curiosity and fuels imagination, who's to say that should end when they've hit their time limit? Research has also uncovered the importance of kids' experience with media, including criteria like who uses media with kids (siblings? parents?), the purpose of the content (school? entertainment?), and who's talking with kids about what they're watching (Daniel Tiger and Stranger Things both make for great mealtime conversation). In other words: Context matters, too.

One of the things the current crisis has really brought home is how unbelievably social kids are, and want to be. Kids may be watching more Netflix and playing more video games than usual. But they're also video-chatting more, playing games with schoolmates, and pursuing interests online. Though nothing can ever replace in-person interaction for children, using tech to strengthen relationships is more important than ever.

With that in mind, here are some recommendations when it comes to using screens during this time:

Don't feel guilty. With each wave of the pandemic, we're experiencing disruptions to our routines, shock, and even trauma. When families are navigating high-stress situations, counting screen minutes should be low on the list of concerns.

Not all screens are created equal. Worried that online schoolwork is adding to your kid's screen time? Don't be. Screen activities shouldn't be lumped together. Some are educational; some are just for fun. Some are high-quality; some are a guilty pleasure. What we do on screens and how we do it is more important than time spent.

Good content is key. Choose age-appropriate, high-quality media and tech for your kids. Use our reviews to find good content.

Get creative. Let kids use your phone to shoot photos and videos and then go to town with stickers, slo-mo, and other editing tools. Give them a prompt like, "Take 10 pictures of something round, and then write a story connecting each thing." Have them make their own memes, record a song, choreograph a dance video—anything that gets them using screens to fulfill their imaginations.

Use tech to bond. Relationships are critical to kids' healthy development. Tech can and should help kids connect with friends and family, collaborate with each other, play, and share stories, pictures, and videos.

Talk about it. We're in a unique position where kids are likely to be using screens more, and we may have more opportunities to join them—or at least engage with them about what they're watching and playing. Ask questions about their favorite games, shows, and characters. Discuss ideas and issues they read or learn about through a TV show or a game. This is an opportunity for learning about one another and sharing your values.

Balance still matters. We should aim for balance throughout the week. So, more screens? Fine. But also find time to be outside, to be active (indoors or outdoors, with or without screens), eat well, and talk with friends and family (in person, on the phone, on social media, or on video chat).

Time at home with kids presents an opportunity to bond with them, even over media. This is not the time to try to deprive kids of something they enjoy and something that research has shown to have positive effects when used appropriately. There's a ton of great high-quality content out there—let your kids use it, use it with them, and don't guilt yourself over something that can still be part of a healthy, balanced childhood, especially during these times of heightened stress.

What do a smartphone and a toothbrush have in common?

We live in a digital age, and our children need to be technically and informationally savvy. But how to make sure that this does not harm their health?

Matthew Johnson, director of media literacy non-profit organization Media Smarts, believes that common sense here - is not only and not so much counting the “correct” number of minutes of screen time per day. The approach of parents should vary, in his opinion, depending on the age of the child. nine0003

Screen Time Standards (by age):

from zero to several minutes (little to no screen time)

What is worth remembering? Young children need physical activity and creative interaction with close adults.

Preschoolers (3-4 years old)

Screen time limit: up to 1 hour per day

Things to keep in mind? The child may already be aware of the plot and the actions of the characters, but parents should plan the time for watching cartoons in advance.

Younger students (ages 5-10)

Screen time limits: 1 to 1.5 hours per day

What to remember? At this age it is important to develop the technical skills of the child, so strive for a balance between entertainment and usefulness. nine0003

Teenagers (11-13 years old)

Screen time limit : up to 2 hours per day

Things to keep in mind ? Teenagers can already begin to take responsibility for the amount of screen time they have.

Help children see the downsides and costs of excessive use of gadgets.

Whole family

Screen time limit: varies

Things to keep in mind? Watching a cartoon or a family movie together unites children and parents. Since it doesn't happen all that often, relax and have fun! nine0003

American Academy of Pediatrics Clarification

For Toddlers

The American Academy of Pediatrics says the only time babies should see screens is during the occasional Skype conversation with their grandmother. The Atlantic argues that video chat affects a child's brain differently than watching TV: children understand that video chat - is a two-way human interaction, different from TV shows or even talking on the phone.

“There is fairly clear evidence that screen time can negatively affect children’s language and other aspects of child development, - explains Matthew Johnson. Not because gadgets are bad in themselves, but because they replace the physical activity, creative play and interaction with close adults that a child really needs at this age in order to develop.


Children aged 3 to 5 love cartoons and cartoon characters. Their addiction to both can be satisfied, but in moderation.

“Smartphones and tablets are nothing wrong with other types of gadgets, except for the temptation to use them all the time as a way to calm or distract a child”, - commented by Matthew Johnson.

If a child literally raves about a certain cartoon, you can offer him a book or a comic book with these characters instead of a video.

In addition, the cartoon can always be played: the child can draw cartoon characters, invent their own stories with their participation or act out their own versions of their adventures.

For elementary school students

Children's priorities change with the beginning of their school life, and gadgets should fade into the background. At the same time, as children grow, parents can gradually give them more autonomy and freedom to manage their time. nine0003

Johnson compares this process to teaching them how to brush their teeth: first you brush your children's teeth yourself, then you teach them to do it themselves, and then you only remind them from time to time.

Children can be taught to make good use of screen time. For example, a child can create a cartoon on the computer or prepare a school research project.

And then the screen time will be calculated differently than in the case of passive use of gadgets.

For teenagers

From Matthew Johnson's point of view, teenagers can already understand the idea of ​​life balance. The task of parents - is to help them see how this relates to the topic of gadgets.

“Make a list of all the activities your child enjoys, both gadget and non-gadget, advises Matthew Johnson. - This will help the child understand that excessive passion for one thing is detrimental to other areas that are important to him. nine0003

"Teenagers - , like all of us today - , need to develop the life skill to recognize when we spend too much time on one thing, especially when it comes to gadgets."
Family friendly

The digital age has brought us digital isolation. To avoid this, go to the movies with your family or arrange movie shows at home. This has a completely different effect on children than surfing alone on YouTube, and therefore such family movie meetings should not be limited in time. nine0003

Matthew Johnson also advises parents to talk to their children more often about the role of media in the modern world and how to consume information consciously. And, of course, to be an example for children.

Hizer Marco


Translation of Anastasia Khramuticheva


Us You can access real-time reports that show you how long you spend with your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. You can also set various restrictions for the aspects that you want to control. nine0003

Screen Time lets you know how much time you and your kids spend on apps, websites, and other resources. This way you can make smarter decisions about how you use your devices and set limits as needed. Learn how to use parental controls to manage your child's device.

Turn on Screen Time

  1. Go to Settings > Screen Time. nine0154
  2. Click Turn On Screen Time, and then click the button again.
  3. Select "This is my [device]" or "This is my child's [device]."

After you turn on Screen Time, you'll see a report of your device, app, and website usage. If it's your child's device, you can set up Screen Time and set options directly on their device, or you can do it on yours using Family Sharing. Once your child's device is set up, Family Sharing can also be used to view reports and adjust settings directly from your device. nine0003

Screen Time also allows you to set a special passcode to protect your settings so that only you can add time and make changes. Be sure to select a passcode that is different from the one used to unlock your device. To change or disable the passcode on your child's device, go to Settings > Screen Time and tap your child's name. Then tap "Change Screen Time Passcode" or "Turn Screen Time Passcode Off" and confirm the changes using Face ID, Touch ID, or your device's passcode. nine0003

If you've forgotten your Screen Time passcode, update your device to the latest version of iOS or iPadOS, then reset your passcode.

Set a Screen Time passcode

You can set a passcode so that only you can change Screen Time settings and allocate extra time when app limits are reached. Use this feature to set privacy and content restrictions for your child's device. The steps to set up a Screen Time passcode depend on whether you're using Family Sharing. nine0003

If you manage your child's account using Family Sharing

  1. Go to Settings and select Screen Time.
  2. Scroll down and select the child's name in the Family section.
  3. Click Turn On Screen Time, then click Continue.
  4. Set At rest, App Limits, and Content & Privacy to match any limits you want your child to have, or click Not Now. nine0154
  5. Click Use Passcode, and then enter your passcode when prompted. Enter the passcode again to confirm.
  6. Enter your Apple ID and password. They can be used to reset your passcode if you forget it.

If you're not managing your child's account with Family Sharing

  1. Make sure you're setting up your child's device.
  2. Go to the "Settings" menu and select the "Screen Time" function. nine0154
  3. Click Turn on Screen Time.
  4. Select "This is my child's [device]."
  5. Set At rest, App Limits, and Content & Privacy to match any limits you want your child to have, or click Not Now.
  6. Click Use Passcode, and then enter your passcode when prompted. Enter the passcode again to confirm.
  7. Enter your Apple ID and password. They can be used to reset your passcode if you forget it. nine0154

View report and set limits

Screen Time provides a report on device usage, applications open, and websites visited. To view the report, go to Settings > Screen Time and tap View. all activity" below the graph. Here you can view usage information, set restrictions for apps in the Frequently Used category, and see how many times you've picked up your device or received notifications. nine0003

If you have Account Across Devices turned on on your device, you can view the shared usage of all devices that are signed in with your Apple ID and password.

Manage Screen Time settings

Go to Settings > Screen Time. Then click "See. all activity", select a category from the list below and set limits. The Screen Time feature allows you to manage the following settings:

At rest

During the periods scheduled for Rest mode using the Settings app, only phone calls and apps you allow are available. Rest mode applies to all devices that have Screen Time turned on. And 5 minutes before it starts, you get a reminder. If you have set a passcode for Screen Time, Rest Mode will have an additional option called Rest Lock. If this option is selected, when you click the "Ask for More Time" button after entering Rest Mode, you can enter a passcode to allow the app to be used for 15 minutes, one hour, or a full day. On a child's account, you can click the 1 More Minute button or the Ask for more time button once to send an approval request to the parent's account. nine0003

Application Limits

The Application Limits setting allows you to set daily limits for application categories.

Learn more