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Screen Time Guidelines for Big Kids

By the time they start school, most kids spend a lot of time in front of screens, like TVs, computers, tablets, and smartphones.

These days, kids need screens for school, getting assignments, doing homework, or researching school projects. But kids also spend a lot of free time on screens watching TV shows, streaming videos, spending time on social media and apps, or playing games.

School-aged kids also need time for other activities, like exercise, screen-free playtime, time with friends and family, and sleep. That’s why parents should set limits on how much time their kids spend in front of a screen.

How Much Is Too Much?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents of kids and teens 5 to 18 years old place consistent limits on media use. Media includes entertainment (like watching TV or playing video games), and education (like researching a school report on the Internet).

Not all screen time is the same. It's up to parents to decide how (and how often) their kids use screens. For instance, time spent on homework or other educational activities might not need to be as restricted as time spent playing games or on social media.

For kids of all ages, screen time should not replace time needed for sleeping, eating, playing, studying, and interacting with family and friends.

Screen Time Tips

The same parenting rules apply to screen time as to anything else — set a good example, establish limits, and talk with your child about it.

To make your child's screen time more productive:

  • Encourage kids to be involved in a variety of free-time activities, like spending time with friends, creating art projects, or reading. Make sure your child is physically active every day and gets enough sleep.
  • Turn off all screens during meals and at least 1 hour before bedtime. Keep TVs and other screens, including smartphones, tablets, and gaming systems, out of your child's bedroom. Also, turn off entertainment media when kids are doing homework.
  • Research video and computer games before getting them for your child. Look at the ratings, which can run from EC (meaning "early childhood" for 3 and older) to AO (meaning "adults only"). Younger kids in grade school should probably be limited to games rated EC or E (meaning "everyone" for 6 and older). E10+ (meaning "everyone 10 and older") may be appropriate for older kids. Preview games and even play them with your child to see what they're like before you let your child play alone. The game's rating may not match what you feel is OK for your child.
  • Spend time together with your child watching TV, playing games, or going online. Use this time as a chance to talk and learn together.
  • Keep the computer in a common area where you can watch what's going on. Teach your child about safe Internet and social media use.
  • Set a good example. Turn off TVs and other screens when not in use. Don’t leave screens on in the background. Turn off or mute your phone when you’re not using it and during family times, like meals.

Talk to your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about managing your child’s screen use.