How Much Screen Time is OK? Doctors’ New Guidelines For Raising Connected Kids

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Have you ever wondered if you’re a bad parent because you allow your kids too much iPad and screen time so you can catch a break?  Well, join the crowd. Whether you’re a working parent or manage the household, most of us are guilty of giving in to a few hours, or maybe even more, of iPad, TV, and video games.

There are only so many hours in a day that you have to get everything around the house donedishes, laundry, dinner, lunch prepso it can be hard to squeeze in even a moment’s rest. And as much as we want to have a super-duper-mind-enriching activity planned for our kids every time we have something to do, who has the time to plan out every waking moment? So out comes the iPad, a gift from the heavens above to all of us hard-working parents.

But how much is too much?

iPad Time and Other Screen Time By Age

We have never been more connected, at least in the digital sense. Between email, texts, iPads, and cell phones it feels like we’re constantly communicating. But does spending so much time looking at our devices impact our true connectivity to the world? Here’s what you need to know about how much time on the iPad, and with screens in general, to allow to keep your kids grounded in real life.

Infants 18 months or younger: No screen time

According to new guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics, there should be no screen time for infants 18 months or younger. Screen time interrupts brain development and healthy parent-child connections. Even if the baby or toddler isn’t looking directly at the screen, sounds and lights can cause distress and sleep problems as well as reduce opportunities for bonding and connectivity.

Children 2 to 5 years: One hour per day

Creative, interactive playtime is the best activity for infants and toddlers according to AAP. More than anything, you want to keep them socially connected to real-life people and experiences. But when you’re absolutely exhausted and just need a moment to kick back, it’s ok for you to allow your 2-year-old to watch a show or play on an iPadas long as it’s not more than one hour a day. You also want to select age-appropriate programs without advertisements that can overstimulate the mind and body. How about video-conferencing with grandma while you make dinner? Kids love this and it is actually supported by AAP because it promotes human interactionalthough virtual which is good for brain development.

Children 6 years and older: Screen time should come after everything else

Think back to when you were a kid and TV was only allowed after you completed your homework and chores. The same applies with other types of digital media. Make sure to account for homework time, physical activity, bath time, and a reasonable bed time first before deciding how much iPad time or TV time your kid can have.

Dinner time with the family is especially important for connectedness. According to a study done by Cornell University, your child may be 35% less likely to engage in disordered eating, 24% more likely to eat healthier foods, and 12% less likely to be overweight if your family maintains shared mealtimes. With all things considered, your 6-year-old or even 10-year-old child should only have about two hours max after school for electronics. Try to keep the same kind of boundaries on screen time during the weekend as well.

Teens: Ensure they get enough physical activity and real-life interaction

Teenagers gain many benefits from today’s technologies, including enhanced connectivity, access to information for school, and creative outlets. But it’s easy for anyone to get lost in cyberspace to the point where we have no idea what is happening around us. One study showed that teens spend 7 hours and 38 minutes a day on digital media. What does this tell us? That they are missing out on opportunities for real social interaction and physical activity during the 50 plus hours they spend online a week. As the parent of a teen, not only do you have to teach them about cyber-bullying, stalking, and inappropriate web content, but you also have to teach them about staying healthy and connected through real-life interactions.

iPads, cell phones, computers, and TV are part of everyday life now, so screen time is probably inevitable. Although the best activities involve in-person interaction and experiences, you can reap the benefits of modern day technology as long as you limit how your kids use it and for how long. During the week, limit your teen to two hours of interactive media. On the weekends, you can allow a little bit more time as long as you ensure they get enough physical activity and social interaction.