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How to Limit Screen Time for Your Family

What you need to know about setting screen time limits for your kids

Infographic depicting suggested screen time limits for different ages

We know iPads and new laptops topped many kids’ Christmas lists this season, and you’re probably wondering how you should handle setting boundaries for screen time. And, by now, you’ve likely asked friends and family for their thoughts and suggestions. Avoid another controversial Facebook “discussion” with these guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

In the past, AAP has been relatively vague on the topic, with guidelines that said no screen time for children under 2. But AAP has now come out with more specific guidelines for parents, explained below:

18 Months and Younger

AAP recommends no screen time for babies 18 months and younger (excluding time video chatting with grandparents and other loved ones). Quality time with caregivers fosters strong relationships and brain development, and time spent watching digital screens deters both of these. Even background noise and light from screens can be too stimulating for babies and cause problems such as sleep disruptions. Doctors urge parents to provide children with enriching activities like blocks, puzzles and books.

2 to 5 Years Old

For ages 2 to 5, there are television shows on PBS or Sprout TV that can help children learn foundational lessons like letters, numbers and counting. But even TV viewing grounded in education should be limited to under an hour each day. If your child uses a tablet more often than these guidelines and you’d like to dial back that screen time, try cutting it down by 15 minutes each day over the course of a week.

Age 6 and Over

School-age children are busy, and their homework is often completed on digital technology. AAP says this doesn’t count as screen time but that additional time should be minimized — with the majority of their time spent learning, socializing, being active and completing schoolwork. Screen time is ultimately left to parental discretion at this age.

If you have more questions about the new AAP screen time guidelines, talk to a pediatrician about what’s right for your family and your lifestyle.