recommended screen time by age

Setting Healthy Limits: Recommended Screen Time by Age

In today’s digital world, finding the right balance of screen time for ourselves and our children can be challenging. Understanding the recommended screen time by age is crucial to fostering healthy habits and ensuring that our engagement with technology remains beneficial rather than detrimental.

Whether it’s minimizing screen use for toddlers or defining appropriate limits for teenagers, adhering to these guidelines can help prevent the negative effects of excessive screen exposure. This article offers a practical look at how to apply these recommendations to daily life, ensuring that every family member can enjoy screen time safely and effectively.

Recommended Screen Time by Age


Navigating the digital landscape can be challenging, especially when it comes to determining how much screen time is appropriate for different age groups. Whether it’s for entertainment, education, or staying connected, screens are a significant part of our daily lives.

However, balancing screen use with healthy daily activities is crucial for our well-being. Here are the generally recommended limits on screen time by age, helping families make informed decisions that support development and health:

  • Infants (Under 18 months): No screen time, except for video chatting under parental supervision.
  • Toddlers (18 months to 2 years): Limited screen time; if introduced, ensure it is high-quality and non-interactive content, watched with a parent.
  • Young Children (2 to 5 years): No more than 1 hour per day of high-quality educational content, with parental co-viewing to help understand and discuss the content.
  • Children (6 to 12 years): Limit non-educational screen time to less than 2 hours per day. Ensure that screen use does not replace essential activities such as physical play, homework, and sleep.
  • Teenagers (13 to 18 years): Encourage moderation and self-regulation in screen use, focusing on balancing digital activities with educational obligations and physical activities.
  • Adults: No specific limit, but balance is key; prioritize obligations and healthful activities over screen use, and practice self-regulation.

Screen Time Recommendations for Infants (0-2 years)

Recommended Limits

For infants under 18 months, experts generally recommend avoiding screen time, except for video chatting. This guidance stems from the crucial need for direct interactions with caregivers, which significantly influence a child’s cognitive, language, and social development.

For children between 18 months to 2 years, introducing high-quality, educational content can be beneficial, but it should always be done with parental interaction to help interpret and understand the content.

Activities to Promote Development

Instead of screen time, engage infants with sensory-rich activities that stimulate their physical and cognitive skills. Simple games like peek-a-boo, singing songs, reading books, or stacking blocks can provide essential developmental benefits that screens cannot offer.

These activities not only promote learning and bonding but also help develop motor skills and problem-solving abilities. Creating a rich, interactive environment is key to fostering an infant’s growth and development during these formative years.

Screen Time for Toddlers (2-5 years)

Recommended Limits

For toddlers, limiting screen time to just one hour per day of high-quality programming is advised. This limited exposure ensures that screen time does not replace vital activities like playtime, sleep, and learning through direct human interactions.

Parents and caregivers should co-view media with children to help them understand and apply what they see on the screen. This approach can also facilitate discussions about the content, enhancing language skills and critical thinking.

Choosing Quality Content

When selecting content, opt for educational and age-appropriate programs that reinforce positive messages and learning goals. Shows and apps designed for toddler development, like those that teach vocabulary, math concepts, or social skills, are preferable.

Organizations like Common Sense Media can provide guidance on suitable options. Additionally, ensuring that the digital content is interactive and not just passively consumed can make screen time more engaging and beneficial for toddlers, turning it into an opportunity for active learning rather than mere entertainment.

Screen Time for Children (6-12 years)

Recommended Limits

For school-aged children, it’s essential to strike a balance with screen time, generally limiting non-educational screen use to less than two hours per day. This guideline helps ensure that screen time doesn’t supplant necessary activities such as physical play, homework, and sufficient sleep.

Keeping screens out of children’s bedrooms, especially close to bedtime, can also help avoid sleep disturbances caused by late-night screen use.

Balancing Screen Use

It’s important for parents to engage actively in their children’s digital consumption by discussing content with them, setting rules about screen time, and modeling healthy screen habits themselves. Encouraging children to make choices about their screen use can help them develop self-regulation skills.

Additionally, promoting a variety of activities—both offline and online—ensures that children develop a well-rounded set of interests and skills. Activities like sports, reading, and artistic pursuits provide valuable opportunities for growth that screens cannot replicate.

Screen Time for Teenagers (13-18 years)

Guidance on Limits

With teenagers, screen time guidelines become more flexible but should still emphasize moderation and balance. Rather than imposing strict limits, it’s beneficial to encourage teens to self-manage their screen use and make thoughtful choices about how they spend their time.

Discussing and setting family expectations about screen time, including the types of media consumed and appropriate times for use, can foster responsibility and self-discipline.

Self-Management Strategies

Teaching teenagers to be mindful of the quality of content and their motivations for using screens is crucial. Encouraging them to reflect on how their screen use affects their emotions and daily responsibilities can promote healthier habits. Teenagers should also be encouraged to take regular breaks from screens to engage in physical activity or socialize face-to-face with peers and family.

This helps prevent the isolation that can often accompany excessive screen use. Additionally, involving teens in setting their own screen time limits can empower them and make them more likely to adhere to healthy practices.

Screen Time for Adults

General Recommendations

For adults, there are no specific screen time limits prescribed universally, as adult responsibilities and lifestyles can vary greatly. However, it is crucial for adults to model healthy screen behaviors, especially for those with children watching.

Adults should strive for a balance that supports their well-being, productivity, and personal relationships. Monitoring and self-regulating screen use can prevent it from interfering with work, sleep, and face-to-face interactions with others.

Tips for Healthy Screen Use

Adults can manage their screen time effectively by setting personal guidelines that align with their daily responsibilities and health goals. For example, avoiding screens during meals can encourage better eating habits and foster more meaningful conversations with family and friends.

Establishing “screen-free” zones in bedrooms can promote better sleep hygiene. Furthermore, adults should consider regular breaks during long periods of screen use to reduce eye strain and physical discomfort, often called “the 20-20-20 rule”: every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and look at something 20 feet away.

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