What Every Parent Needs to Know About Kids and Screen Time

Too Much Screen Time Reflect Neuropsychology

How many screens do you look at over the course of a day? From cell phones to tablets to computers at work, both adults and children spend hours every day staring at screens. However, many pediatric neuropsychologists and researchers are sounding the alarm about children and screen time.

The Consequences of Too Much Screen Time

A recent child development study from the University of Calgary (2019) found that children who spend more time in front of screens show signs of delayed development. Video games, computer use, tablet time, smartphone use and television viewing all count towards screen time. On average, kids are watching screens between 2-3 hours every day. The current recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics (2016) is only 1 hour of quality programming. When children are spending time in front of screens instead of playing with toys, learning to ride a bike outside or talking with a parent, they are missing chances to practice gross motor skills and interact with the world.

Setting Screen Time Rules

The American Academy of Pediatrics (2016) discourages any screen time for kids younger than 18-24 months, unless it is high-quality media in a group setting. For children who are between 2 and 5, keep screen time at 1 hour of educational programming. Past that point, try to limit all screen time to high-quality content. What makes media appropriate for kids?

  • Preview any games or apps before you allow your child to play them.
  • Look for interactive media that your child can engage with, instead of ones that just require staring or passive swiping.
  • Use parental controls to filter internet content on any devices used by children.
  • Whenever you watch a program with your child, talk about what you are watching and have engaging conversation.

When setting screen time rules, make sure that two hours is the maximum amount of time your children are exposed to screens. If your child is not receptive to this or obsessed with getting access to a device as a result, make an effort to understand why your child wants to use the device. Does your daughter miss her best friend? Set up a play date or allow them to talk on the landline. Is your son bored? Play a game as a family to bond. With a little practice, the screen obsession can end.

Help Your Kids Thrive with Reflect Neuropsychology

Reflect Neuropsychology is a leading neuropsychology firm in Southern California, specializing in counseling, therapy and neuropsychological assessment of children, adolescents and adults. We also can address your medicolegal needs and provide expert witness testimony, legal examination of medical records as well as independent medical examinations for capacity assessments and more. As a highly specialized practice, we can focus on evidence-based, personally tailored treatment and evaluation. To learn more about our services and schedule an appointment, visit us online or call us at (818) 324-3800.


Madigan, S., Browne, D., Racine, N., Mori, C., & Tough, S. (2019). Association Between Screen Time and Children’s Performance on a Developmental Screening Test. JAMA Pediatrics173(3), 244. doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2018.5056

(2016, October 21). Retrieved from https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/American-Academy-of-Pediatrics-Announces-New-Recommendations-for-Childrens-Media-Use.aspx

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Kids and Screen Time

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