Striking a Balance: Screen Time Recommendations for Children

Home Occupational Therapy Striking a Balance: Screen Time Recommendations for Children
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Screen Time Recommendations for Children

In the fast-paced digital age we live in, children are growing up surrounded by screens of all sizes. From smartphones and tablets to computers and TVs, screens have become an integral part of their daily lives. While technology can offer numerous educational and entertainment opportunities, concerns about the potential negative effects of excessive screen time on children’s health and development have arisen.

Striking a balance between harnessing the benefits of technology and ensuring healthy childhood development is crucial. In this blog post, we will look into the current recommendations for screen time for children, exploring the potential risks and benefits, and providing practical tips for parents and caregivers.

Understanding Screen Time Guidelines

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has long been a leading authority on children’s health and development. In 2016, the AAP released updated guidelines on screen time for children, acknowledging the evolving digital landscape. The recommendations emphasize the importance of mindful and purposeful use of screens while recognizing the diverse ways in which children engage with technology.

  • For children younger than 18 months, the AAP recommends avoiding the use of screen media other than video chatting.
  • Children aged 18 to 24 months, introducing high-quality programming is acceptable but should be limited, and parents should watch it with their child to help them understand what they are seeing.
  • For children aged 2 to 5 years, screen time should be limited to one hour per day of high-quality programming, with parents actively engaging and co-viewing to enhance understanding.
  • Children aged 6 years and older, establishing consistent limits on the amount of screen time is crucial, as well as ensuring that screen use does not interfere with adequate sleep, physical activity, and other healthy behaviors.

Benefits of Screen Time

Benefits of Screen Time

When used appropriately, screen time can offer a myriad of benefits for children’s development. Educational apps, interactive games, and online learning platforms can enhance cognitive skills, promote creativity, and provide valuable exposure to different concepts. Virtual field trips and educational videos can broaden a child’s knowledge about the world around them. Additionally, screens can be a valuable tool for communication, connecting children with family and friends, especially in today’s globalized society.

Moreover, screens can serve as a medium for developing important skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and digital literacy. As technology continues to play an increasingly significant role in various aspects of our lives, equipping children with these skills from an early age is essential for their future success.

Risks of Excessive Screen Time

While acknowledging the benefits, it’s crucial to be aware of the potential risks associated with excessive screen time. Prolonged exposure to screens has been linked to physical health issues such as eyestrain, disrupted sleep patterns, and sedentary behavior, which can contribute to obesity. Furthermore, excessive screen time may interfere with the development of social and emotional skills, as face-to-face interactions and real-world experiences are essential for fostering empathy, communication, and interpersonal relationships.

Cognitive development can also be impacted if screen time replaces essential activities such as reading, creative play, and problem-solving. Excessive exposure to certain types of content, including violent or inappropriate material, can have negative effects on a child’s behavior and mental well-being.

Practical Tips for Parents

Practical Tips for Parents

Balancing screen time for children requires a thoughtful and proactive approach from parents and caregivers. Here are some practical tips to help navigate the digital landscape responsibly:

  1. Set Clear Limits: Establish consistent and age-appropriate limits on daily screen time. Clearly communicate these limits to your child and enforce them consistently.
  2. Prioritize Quality Content: Focus on high-quality, age-appropriate content that aligns with your child’s developmental stage. Educational apps, games, and programs can provide valuable learning experiences.
  3. Co-View and Engage: Whenever possible, watch and engage with your child during screen time. Co-viewing allows you to discuss the content, answer questions, and ensure that the experience is enriching.
  4. Create Tech-Free Zones: Designate certain areas of your home, such as bedrooms and dining areas, as tech-free zones. This encourages face-to-face interactions, promotes better sleep hygiene, and fosters a balanced lifestyle.
  5. Encourage Outdoor Play: Prioritize physical activities and outdoor play to ensure your child remains active and maintains a healthy lifestyle. Balance screen time with activities that promote physical, social, and emotional development.
  6. Model Healthy Behavior: Children often emulate the behavior of their parents. Model healthy screen time habits by demonstrating a balanced approach and mindful use of technology.
  7. Establish Tech-Free Times: Designate specific times during the day when screens are off-limits, such as during meals, family outings, and before bedtime. This helps create a healthy routine and promotes quality family time.


By understanding the recommendations, benefits, and risks associated with screen time, parents and caregivers can make informed decisions that contribute to the holistic development of their children.

Striking this balance involves promoting purposeful and mindful screen use while ensuring that real-world experiences, face-to-face interactions, and physical activities remain integral parts of a child’s daily life. By navigating the digital landscape with awareness and intention, we can empower the next generation to harness the positive potential of technology while safeguarding their overall well-being.

Occupational Therapy at Transform Life

In conclusion, it’s important that parents find the right balance for screen time in their children’s lives. Consult an Occupational Therapist today to get advise on activities you can include in your child’s life to promote this balance.
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Transform Life is a NDIS registered organisation that provide support for your autistic child, as well as support to you as a parent to best navigate the challenges your child and family face on a daily basis.

Book your FREE consult with an experienced Therapist at Transform Life to explore how OT can support you and your family.


Transform Life is an Australian owned provider specialising in evidence based therapeutic support including Positive Behaviour Support, Occupational Therapy, Psychology, Speech Therapy and Behavioural Interventions helping transform lives and families across Australia.

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