What’s The Right Amount of Screen Time?
With headlines questioning “Have Smartphone’s Destroyed a Generation?” and citing “These are the Alarming Effects Screen Time Has on a Child’s Brain”, the controversy around the impact of screens on today’s youth continues to swirl. Furthering the confusion is the many educational and creative benefits of screen time, as well as data showing that teens who spend zero time on screens for recreational purposes are less happy than those that spend a moderate amount. Parents are unclear as to what’s the right amount of screen time, and it’s no wonder that screen time is now the number one parenting concern.
Whether it’s excessive time spent on screens, the busyness of our 24/7 connected world, feelings of loneliness, or some other factor, parents must be attuned to their children’s health and well-being. While researchers are actively studying the impact of technology on our youth, it will take decades before we know the reliability of the data and underlying causalities. Parents ultimately will have to make the call what’s the right amount of screen time for their child, but our research has uncovered some helpful guidelines.
The ‘Just Right Amount’
When it comes to screen time, parents may be relieved to know that researchers are converging around the opinion that screen time in moderation actually produces an uptick in happiness. Jean Twenge, a well-known psychologist and author who studies generational trends, concluded in a recent study: “Teenagers who get a small amount of screen time…are happier than those you get none at all…The happiest teens are those who are above average in face-to-face social interaction time and below average in social media use.”
These findings are consistent with the Goldilock Hypothesis that there is a ‘just right’ amount of screen time. A recent study conducted for UNICEF found, “in terms of impact on children’s mental well-being, the most robust studies suggest that the relationship [with technology] is U-shaped, where no use and excessive use can have a small negative impact on mental well-being, while moderate use can have a small positive impact.”
The Goldilocks Hypothesis
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While the ‘sweet spot’ varies according to the type of screen time, the ‘just right amount’ averages between 1 and 2 hours per day on weekdays, and between 2 and 3 hours on weekends.
Finding The Sweet Spot for Screen Time is Contextual
Teens reach their sweet spot sooner on weekdays than weekends, likely because they have fewer demands on their time. This finding likely holds true for younger children as well.
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When determining the right amount of screen time for your child, we think there are 4 main questions to consider:
- Is your child meeting his or her Basic Responsibilities?
- Is screen time creating a lot of conflict in your family?
- How is your child’s screen use affecting others when in social situations?
- How is your child spending his or her free time?
Because screen time potentially encroaches on time for socializing, sleep, reading, physical activity, time outdoors — the very activities we know contribute to health and well-being, parents are wise to set limits. One more hour of screen time takes away one hour for something else. Ultimately, we want teens to be prepared for the realities of life in the digital world by the time they head to college, but self-regulation is a learned skill!
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Back in 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) revised their screen time guidelines removing strict time limits for children over six. This policy revision reflected their expanded view that not all screen time is created equal and that there are many worthwhile benefits to using technology to facilitate learning and creativity. For children:
- Under 18 months: limit to video chatting only
- 2 – 5 years: 1- hour of high-quality programming
- Place consistent limits on the time spent using media and the types of media
- Be sure to allow time for other behaviors that promote health, such as sleep, physical activity, unstructured play time and face-to-face interaction
- 9 to 12 hours of sleep for children ages 6-12, and 8 to 10 hours for teenagers
- At least 1 hour of physical activity for 5-17 year-olds
The World Health organization released their latest guidelines in April 2019 which were very consistent with the AAP’s. They did, however, emphasize the importance of physical movement stating that no more than 1 hour of sedentary screen time is appropriate for children ages 2-5.
Practically speaking, without more definitive time ranges, parents with children over the age of six are left grappling with how to slice and dice screen time. Our iConcierge services and interactive Tools, were designed to help parents create the boundaries they need to make screen time more manageable. We are here to help!
- Have Smartphone Destroyed a Generation?
- These are the Alarming Effects Screen Time Has on A Child’s Brain
- Why Parents Fear Tech More than Drugs, Alcohol and Sexual Activity for their Teenagers
- Suicide rates have increased by 25%
- The Just Right Amount of Time
- Unicef Study
- AAP Recommendations
- Researchers find the most plausible cause of well being
- Limiting childrens recreational screen time to less than two hours a day linked to better cognition
- Associations between 24 hour movement behaviors and global cognition in US chidren
- How teens and parents navigate screen time and device distractions
- Teens who spend less time in front of screens are happier up to a point
- Rise in teen suicide connected to social media popularity study
- Increased hours online correlate with an uptick in teen depression suicidal thoughts
- A large scale test of the Goldilocks Hypothesis