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. 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.  

Click on photo to zoom

Click on photo to zoom

When determining the right amount of screen time for your child, we think there are 4 main questions to consider:

  1. Is your child meeting his or her Basic Responsibilities?
  2. Is screen time creating a lot of conflict in your family?
  3. How is your child’s screen use affecting others when in social situations?
  4. 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!

Congratulations on completing Trip 1! Now that you’ve gotten up to speed on Screen Time, Trip 2 will guide you through our Tools to Strike a Balance. Trip 3 provides a in-depth look at Apple’s Parental Controls and how to set them up, as well as some of our favorite solutions for making ‘Parenting Technology’ easier. We’re here to answer questions at any point–you can always just Text Us!, or reach us through iConcierge Services.

Our TimeWise Calculator

Free Time Doesn’t Always Have to Equal Free Time.

 

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:

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!

1 Comment
  1. lauriecandido 6 months ago

    I’m loving this, Julie! You and your team are doing a fantastic job!

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