How much time should children be spending on screens?
How much time does your child spend on screens per day? A lot of parents or carers would say “too much, but it’s so hard to get them off!” When you add up your child playing on phones, doing assignments at school, TV, playing computer games and watching their favourite Youtube channel, this starts to add up. The average 13 year boy spends 4.5 hours per day on screens. Screen time in moderation is okay, however excessive screen time is shown to impact engagement at school, friendships, family relationships, physical health and mental health.
It is recommended that children between 2-5 years old spend less than 1 hour per day on screens and children between 5-18 years old spend less than 2 hours per day on screens for recreational use (not including school work).
Why does my child spend so long on screens?
Games and screens are fun. The sights, sounds, rewards are designed to be engaging for children and adolescents. When playing games children can feel a sense of achievement, feel socially connected and feel important. Sometimes the real world is hard to manage and screen time can be an escape or a place where they feel success. Children can also become addicted to gaming and they feel a need to keep on playing.
8 Tips for reducing screen time:
- Monitor your child’s use and set clear boundaries. Implementing rules like “no screen time until your child has finished chores” or setting a timer to limit computer usage are useful. Make sure everyone involved in enforcing the boundaries is on the same page. I know as a child I used to ask Mum to play video games as she was more of a pushover than Dad. Children have their ways!
- Limit technology binges on the weekend. Schooling is hard and children deserve a break. However, often technology use is not monitored as much on the weekend and children and adolescents have poorer sleep routines and spend a lot of time on games. This makes it hard to get back into routine for the week.
- Remove TV’s, ipads and computers from bedrooms. Place screens in public places so you can monitor how much time your child is spending on them and what they are accessing.
- Engage your child in something else. Engage your child in another activity that they enjoy. Playing with friends or family members is a good way to help them participate in something new.
- Break it up. Break up their screen time into smaller chunks. You might set a timer so that every 20 minutes they have to stop and do something active before they can keep playing.
- Educate your child. Letting your child know the importance of being healthy physically, socially and from a mental health perspective can be useful in reducing screen time. Do this in an age appropriate way.
- Cut back on your own technology use. The more time you spend on technology, the more likely your child is to do the same. Get active and do things with your child.
- It gets easier in the long run. Sometimes “it’s easier” to let your child stay on the game rather than have an argument or engage with them, but this can lead to long term challenges. Being consistent in enforcing boundaries will make things easier in the long run for you and your child.
Xu, Z, Turel, O & Yuan, Y 2012, ‘Online game addiction among adolescents: motivation and prevention factors’, European Journal of Information Systems, vol. 21, no. 3, pp. 321-340.
Falbe, J, Rosner, B, Willett, W, Sonneville, K, Hu, F & Field, A 2013, ‘Adiposity and Different Types of Screen Time’, Pediatrics, vol. 132, no. 6, pp. e1497.