5 Ways to Help Limit Your Children's Screen/TV Time

November 7, 2016

How much TV/screen time do your kids get? How much is too much? Should TV and screen time be considered the same thing? On average how much TV are kids actually watching? How does watching TV and other electronics affect children? We’ll dive into these questions and offer tips to help manage your children’s screen/TV time.

How Much Is Too Much TV/Screen Time for Children?

The amount of time kids spend in front of the TV and screens (tablets, smartphones, etc) in general is a hot topic. Even though parents know that spending hours and hours in front of an electronic device is not advisable for their kids, how much is too much?

One of the biggest challenges is that TVs and screens are everywhere. They are in the home, in stores, and TV and screens are increasingly used in the classroom as a learning tool. If kids are exposed to 2 hours of screen time at school, does that mean they shouldn’t watch TV when they get home? Do educational shows and activities count? It’s these types of questions that parents are thinking about.

What about when you just need to keep the kids occupied for a few minutes? Sometimes parents just need to plop the kids down in front of the TV for a little while so they can prepare dinner or knock a few chores off the never-ending list. Will this harm them?

What Does the Research Say?

In a world where screens are everywhere, researchers have had to change their stance on the amount of TV time children should be allowed on a daily basis. For years, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advised that children under 2 avoid TV time entirely, and children older than 2 be limited to no more than 2 hours per day.

However, in 2015, the AAP softened their stance on TV time recommendations for children. The change has a lot to do with how technology is used.

“All technology is not the same, all media is not the same,” said Dr. Ari Brown to the Wall Street Journal. “There’s consumption, and there’s creation, and there’s communication. So if you’re looking at children under 2, there’s a big difference between endless hours of watching cartoons on YouTube and video chatting with Grandma.”

Moving away from their previous recommendations of no screen time for children under 2, they now recommend that 30-60 minutes of interactive media daily is an acceptable limit.

Are TV and Screen Time the Same Thing?

This is a question that is asked more frequently by parents. If they are the same thing, does this mean that kids should watch even less TV? If they are not considered the same, does this mean that things like videos watched on tablets don’t count?

Denise Schipni from Babycenter.com provides some insight as to what does and doesn’t count as screen time:

“Screen time is any time a child spends looking at an electronic screen, including watching videos and television shows, playing video games, and interacting with smartphones, tablets, and computers.”

How Much TV Are Kids Watching?

Research conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) found that:

  • 2/3 of infants and toddlers watch a screen an average of 2 hours a day
  • Kids under age 6 watch an average of about 2 hours of screen media a day, primarily TV and videos or DVDs
  • Kids and teens 8 to 18 years spend nearly 4 hours a day in front of a TV screen, and almost 2 additional hours on the computer (outside of schoolwork) and playing video games

Why Too Much TV and Screen Time Is a Concern

There are a number of key reasons why professionals and pediatricians are concerned about the amount of time kids spend watching TV and in front of screens:

  • Children who watch a lot of TV are more likely to be overweight and lack the necessary exercise to be healthy
  • They are more likely to be exposed to violence and other content that is not appropriate for their age
  • They are exposed to gender stereotypes and poor behaviors
  • They are less social

Every child is different with what they can handle. For example, A child with ADHD may only be able to handle half an hour a day whereas other children can handle 2 hours per day. It is important, aside from what the studies say, to know your children and their personal limits.

5 Tips for Limiting TV & Screen Time

So what should parents do? Now that you know how much TV is an acceptable amount, and that screen time and media varies, it’s important to stick within the limits. Here are some tips for limiting TV and screen time at home:

1.Prioritize homework/chores

Have children complete important tasks such as homework or household chores before being allowed to watch TV or use the computer.

2. Avoid watching TV just because

We’re all guilty of it. How often do you sit down in front of the TV and turn it on just because it’s what you always do or because you are bored? To remedy this, when your kids watch TV, make sure it’s because there is a specific program they want to watch and are not just watching TV to pass the time.

3. Set device usage rules

Have specific times where no devices are allowed such as during dinner and right before bed. You can also set aside family time or game nights where all devices need to be turned off.

4. Quality over quantity

When your kids to watch TV, encourage them to watch quality programming. Quality is always more important than quantity for TV viewing.

5. Model behavior

Parents need to be careful not to exhibit the behaviors they are trying to prevent their children from doing. Many parents are worse than children when it comes to screen time. Remember - if your kids see you on your phone or the computer all the time, they’ll think it’s okay to do the same. Set the example you want them to follow.


There is a time and place for TV and other devices. The key for parents is to limit how much time kids are watching, and make sure that when they are watching TV that they are watching quality programming. We can all learn to balance our lives with enriching experiences found off devices. Help your child with limitations and quality will ensure overall balance for your family and child.

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