What is the Optimal Screen Time for Kids by Age: Science-Based Guide for Parents

As a parent, you might be wondering about the optimal screen time for your kids according to their age. Balancing technology use and the development of your children is essential, and it’s crucial to understand what screen time guidelines are best supported by science.

Research has found that for children younger than 2 years, it’s recommended that they have no screen time at all, while kids over the age of two should limit their screen time to a maximum of two hours per day. This recommendation stems from the need to focus on crucial language and social skills development during these early years source.

However, it’s important to recognize that not all screen time is created equal, and the content your child is engaging with can make a significant difference.

πŸ‘‰ Encouraging educational, age-appropriate, and interactive content can help ensure your child gains the maximum benefits from their screen time while minimizing negative consequences.

Optimal Screen Time Based on Age

Infants and Toddlers

For infants and toddlers, it’s essential to prioritize face-to-face interactions and limit screen time exposure.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends avoiding any screen time for children under 18 months, except for video calls.

Choose high-quality, age-appropriate programs for kids aged 18 to 24 months, and watch them together to help them understand the content.


As your child enters the preschool years (2 to 5 years old), it’s crucial to strike a balance between screen time and other activities.

The AAP suggests limiting screen time to no more than 1 hour per day.

Choose high-quality, educational content that encourages them to engage, interact, and learn. Encourage conversation and help them connect digital experiences to real-life situations.

School-Aged Children

For school-aged children (6 to 11 years old), screen time recommendations are based on finding a balance between academic, social, and physical activities.

Encourage your child to engage in various non-screen activities before allocating screen time, and make sure they remain in line with their daily needs. A study found that children who spend more than 2 hours of daily screen time may have lower cognitive and social skills.


Teenagers are more independent with their screen time, making it essential to establish boundaries and help them make informed decisions. Encourage healthy habits, such as proper sleep hygiene and regular physical activity.

Research showed that U.S. adolescents who spent more than 3 hours a day on screen activities were more likely to have obesity.

Discuss the importance of balancing screen time with other aspects of life and monitor their online behavior to ensure safety.

Factors Affecting Screen Time Recommendations

When determining the optimal screen time for kids by age, there are several factors to consider. In this section, you’ll learn about the importance of content and quality, supervised and co-viewing, and balancing screen time with other activities.

Content and Quality

One crucial factor affecting screen time recommendations is the content and quality of the media your child is engaging with.

High-quality educational programs or interactive content can positively impact a child’s learning and development. It’s important for you to select age-appropriate and engaging content that stimulates your child’s curiosity and supports their learning goals.

Don’t be afraid to explore various media types, such as videos, games, and apps, to find content that best suits your child’s interests and needs.

Supervised and Co-Viewing

Another significant factor to consider is the level of parental involvement and supervision during your child’s screen time.

Engaging in supervised and co-viewing activities can help facilitate learning, and it allows you to discuss the content with your child, fostering their understanding and critical thinking skills.

Make sure to take an active role in your child’s media consumption, and be available to answer any questions they might have, discuss themes, and provide guidance on appropriate content.

Balancing Screen Time with Other Activities

Finally, it’s essential to balance your child’s screen time with other activities that promote their overall well-being and development.

Encourage your child to engage in physical activities, outdoor play, creative pursuits, and social interactions. Keep a close eye on their daily routine and ensure they’re spending adequate time on important tasks such as homework, chores, and family time.

By promoting a healthy balance, you can help your child develop essential life skills and prevent excessive reliance on screens.

Effects of Excessive Screen Time

The optimal screen time for kids varies by age and individual needs. However, excessive screen time can have significant effects on children’s overall well-being. In this section, we’ll explore the impacts on physical health, mental health, sleep, and cognitive development.

Physical Health

When your child engages in prolonged screen time, their physical activity levels may decrease. This sedentary behavior can lead to an increased risk of obesity and poor muscle development. It’s important to encourage your child to participate in regular physical activities like playing outdoors or engaging in sports to counter these effects.

Mental Health

Too much screen time can also affect your child’s mental health. It may lead to increased anxiety and depression due to social isolation, cyberbullying, and exposure to negative online content. Ensure that your child has ample opportunities to interact with their peers in person and monitor their online activities to promote positive mental health.


Excessive screen time, particularly before bedtime, can disrupt your child’s sleep patterns. Watching screens with blue light can suppress the production of melatonin, making it harder for them to fall asleep. Establish a routine that includes turning off screens at least an hour before bedtime to help improve their sleep quality.

Cognitive Development

Finally, too much screen time can impact your child’s cognitive development. In younger children, excessive screen time has been linked to poorer language skills and reduced science knowledge. Encouraging your child to engage in educational activities and limit their screen time will promote healthy cognitive development.

Remember to balance screen time and other activities in your child’s life. This will help them grow and develop into well-rounded individuals.

Tips to Manage Screen Time Effectively

It’s essential to strike a balance between screen time and other activities to ensure children’s overall well-being. Here are some friendly tips to help you manage screen time for your kids better:

Establishing Routines

Create a daily schedule for your children with a healthy mix of activities, such as schoolwork, physical exercise, playtime, and family time. Establish designated times for watching TV or using digital devices, and stick to these routines consistently. This helps children become familiar with the routine and less likely to become overly attached to screens.

Encouraging Outdoor Play

Playing outdoors provides numerous benefits for children, including enhancing their physical, cognitive, and emotional development. Encourage your kids to spend at least one hour per day playing outdoors, participating in sports, or engaging in other physical activities. By making outdoor play an integral part of their daily routine, you can easily reduce their screen time.

Setting Boundaries and Rules

It’s essential to set clear boundaries and rules regarding screen time. For example, you can:

  • Limit screen time based on your child’s age, following recommendations from scientific research.
  • No screens during meals: Encourage family conversations and help kids focus on their food.
  • Set a bedtime for screens: Keep screens out of the bedroom to help establish a healthy sleeping routine.

By setting these rules, you’ll teach your kids the importance of self-regulation and responsible screen use.

Screen-Free Zones

Designate areas in your house, such as the dining room or bedrooms, as screen-free zones. These spaces should be free from digital devices, including television, smartphones, and tablets. By doing this, you’re creating an environment that encourages face-to-face interactions, quality family time, and more opportunities for non-screen activities.


In today’s digital world, determining the right amount of screen time for your child can be a challenge. Several studies highlight the importance of balancing screen time with other crucial activities such as outdoor play and social interactions.

For young children under the age of two, it’s best to minimize screen exposure as much as possible. Instead, focus on encouraging interactive play and building essential motor skills. As your child grows older, you can gradually introduce screen time, but ensure that it’s age-appropriate and of good quality.

School-aged children can benefit from some screen time, especially when it comes to educational content or creative outlets. However, it is essential to monitor their usage and set limits based on their age and individual needs. A systematic scoping review highlights the importance of balancing “screen time” with “green time” to maintain a healthy psychological state in children and adolescents.

As your child enters adolescence, it becomes increasingly necessary to educate them about responsible screen time habits and the risks of excessive use. Discuss the importance of physical activity, social connections, and fulfilling hobbies to create a well-rounded lifestyle.

Although no hard and fast rules apply to every child, here are some general guidelines:

  • For children under 2: minimize screen time entirely
  • For children aged 2-5: limit screen time to 1 hour per day
  • For children over 5: set reasonable boundaries, considering quality and educational value

Remember that every child is unique and may have different requirements. Adjust these guidelines to suit your child’s needs, and always prioritize their overall well-being.