What the Average Screen Time Should Be for Kids and Teens

In today's digital era, children and teenagers are growing up surrounded by screens, from smartphones and tablets, to computers and televisions. While technology offers countless benefits, such as access to educational resources and opportunities for connectivity, concerns about the impact of excessive screen time on young minds and bodies continue to grow. 

In this article, we'll explore the concept of screen time and delve into the recommendations and guidelines provided by experts. 

The Concept of Screen Time

Screen time refers to the amount of time spent engaging with electronic devices like smartphones, tablets, computers, televisions, and gaming consoles. While technology offers numerous benefits, excessive screen time can impact children's development in several ways. 

Prolonged exposure to screens can interfere with cognitive development, hindering attention span, memory, and problem-solving skills. Additionally, excessive screen time may lead to a sedentary lifestyle, contributing to obesity and other health issues. Social development can also be affected, as excessive screen time may limit face-to-face interactions and interpersonal skills development. 

Furthermore, the content children are exposed to during screen time can influence their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours, potentially leading to issues such as aggression or poor body image. 

Therefore, it's crucial for parents to monitor and regulate screen time to ensure it remains balanced with other activities essential for healthy development, such as physical play, socialisation, and creative endeavours.

The AAP Screen Time Guidelines

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) provides links to resources which outline recommendations for parents and caregivers regarding the appropriate use of electronic media by children and adolescents. These guidelines aim to promote healthy screen habits and mitigate potential negative effects on physical, cognitive, and social development. 

Let's delve into these screen time guidelines and their key principles:

  • Children under 18 months: it’s recommended that the use of screen media for children under 18 months of age be avoided entirely. This guideline is based on the understanding that infants and toddlers learn best through face-to-face interactions and real-world experiences. Excessive screen time during this critical period may interfere with early brain development and social-emotional learning.
  • Children aged 18 to 24 months: for children aged 18 to 24 months, limited and high-quality screen time may be introduced under parental supervision. However, it's crucial to prioritise interactive activities and limit screen time to high-quality programming that is educational and age-appropriate. Co-viewing with parents can enhance the learning experience and promote meaningful interaction.
  • Children aged 2 to 5 years: it’s suggested that screen time be limited to one hour per day of high-quality programming for children aged 2 to 5 years. This guideline emphasises the importance of selecting educational content that promotes learning and development. Parents should actively engage with their children during screen time, discussing the content and reinforcing key concepts.
  • Children aged 6 years and older: for children aged 6 years and older, it’s advisable to set consistent limits on screen time to ensure it doesn't interfere with essential activities such as sleep, physical activity, homework, and face-to-face social interactions. Parents should establish clear rules regarding screen time usage and encourage a balanced lifestyle.

What is clear is that there is an emphasis on the importance of prioritising the quality of screen time over the quantity, no matter the age of the child. Therefore,  parents should focus on selecting age-appropriate, educational, and interactive content that promotes learning and skill development. 

It's essential for parents to establish consistent limits and boundaries regarding screen time usage. This includes setting specific time limits, designated screen-free zones (e.g., bedrooms), and promoting alternative activities such as outdoor play, reading, and creative endeavours.

By following these screen time guidelines and promoting healthy screen habits, parents can help their children develop positive relationships with technology while safeguarding their overall wellbeing and development.

The Average Screen Time for Kids and Teens 

Currently, teens spend an average of 8½ hours per day on screens, while tweens (ages 8 to 12) follow closely behind, averaging 5½ hours daily. These figures represent the time spent on social media, gaming, and texting, and don’t account for screen time used for educational purposes.

These statistics are alarming, showing that children are spending less time moving their bodies, developing hobbies, making friends and connecting with nature. 

Online Schooling and Screen Time

Concerns about screen time naturally arise when considering the transition to online schooling. However, it's important to recognise that online schooling doesn't necessarily mean children will be glued to their screens for extended periods.

One key aspect of online schooling is the emphasis on quality educational content. Instead of mindlessly scrolling or engaging in non-educational activities, children are interacting with curriculum materials tailored to their learning needs. Whether through live virtual classes, interactive assignments, or multimedia resources, online schooling offers opportunities for engaging with high-quality educational content.

Moreover, online schooling typically doesn't require as much time as traditional in-person schooling. Without the need for commuting, transitions between classes, or other logistical aspects, children may find that they have extra hours in their day. These additional hours can be redirected towards activities away from screens, such as playing outside, pursuing hobbies, or participating in extracurricular activities.

Parents and educators play a crucial role in structuring children's time and balancing screen usage with other activities. Setting boundaries and scheduling regular breaks from screens can help mitigate the potential negative effects of prolonged screen time. Encouraging physical activity, social interaction, and creative endeavours alongside online schooling can contribute to a well-rounded and healthy lifestyle for children.

How to Reduce Screen Time

Reducing screen time is crucial for promoting a healthy lifestyle and ensuring that children and teens engage in a balanced range of activities. Here are four effective strategies to help decrease screen time:

  • Establish clear boundaries and limits: setting clear boundaries and limits regarding screen time is essential for guiding children's usage. Create a screen time schedule that designates specific times of the day for screen use, such as after homework is completed or after dinner. Be consistent in enforcing these limits and communicate the rules with your child to ensure mutual understanding and compliance. Setting boundaries helps establish healthy screen habits and encourages children to engage in alternative activities.
  • Promote alternative activities: encourage children to participate in alternative activities that do not involve screens. Provide access to a variety of options such as outdoor play, sports, arts and crafts, board games, reading, and socialising with friends. Actively engage with your child in these activities to make them more appealing and enjoyable. By promoting alternative activities, children are more likely to develop diverse interests and skills while reducing their reliance on screens for entertainment.
  • Lead by example: children often emulate the behaviour of their parents or caregivers, so it's essential to model healthy screen habits. Limit your own screen time, especially during family time, meals, and before bedtime. Demonstrate the importance of engaging in offline activities by actively participating in hobbies, spending time outdoors, and prioritising face-to-face interactions. By leading by example, you can instil values of moderation and balance in your child's screen usage.
  • Create screen-free zones and times: designate specific areas of the home, such as bedrooms and dining areas, as screen-free zones. Establish screen-free times during family meals, before bedtime, and during designated family activities. Creating screen-free zones and times helps reduce temptation and encourages family members to engage in meaningful interactions and activities without the distraction of screens. It also promotes better sleep hygiene by limiting exposure to screens before bedtime, which can disrupt sleep patterns.

Apps to Limit Screen Time

There are several apps available that can help parents and caregivers limit screen time for children and teens. Here are three popular options along with explanations of how each app works.

Screen Time

Screen Time is a comprehensive parental control app available for both iOS and Android devices. It allows parents to set daily screen time limits, block specific apps or websites, and schedule device-free time periods. Parents can also remotely monitor their child's screen time usage and receive notifications when time limits are reached. Screen Time offers a range of features to help parents manage and control their child's screen time effectively.


OurPact is a versatile parental control app that enables parents to set screen time limits, block apps or websites, and schedule device usage times. With OurPact, parents can create custom schedules for each child's device, ensuring that screen time is balanced with other activities such as homework, chores, and family time. 

The app also includes a feature called ‘App Rules’, which allows parents to block or grant access to specific apps based on time or location. OurPact offers a user-friendly interface and robust features for managing screen time across multiple devices.

Family Link

Developed by Google, Family Link is a parental control app designed to help parents manage their child's digital activities. With Family Link, parents can set daily screen time limits, approve or block app downloads, and view activity reports to monitor their child's screen time usage. 

The app also includes features such as remote device locking and location tracking for added peace of mind. Family Link works seamlessly with Android devices and offers a range of tools to help parents establish healthy screen time habits for their children.

Download the FREE Impact of ChatGPT on Education eBook

What the Average Screen Time Should Be for Kids and Teens

Download the FREE Impact of ChatGPT on Education eBook

What the Average Screen Time Should Be for Kids and Teens

Find out more about the impact that ChatGPT currently has and will have on education in the future.

Download Now

Other articles