The mindless gaze. We’ve all seen it, and many of us have done it ourselves. But when our children are staring at screens for hours, it brings a whole new level of worry for parents: “How much time should my kid spend in front of a screen?”
That is a great question. But first, let’s consider the effects of being too plugged in.
The problem with screens
According to Dr. Alyssa Killebrew, a licensed clinical psychologist in Ridgeland, Mississippi, children who spend a lot of time in front of a device such as a tablet, phone, TV or laptop can struggle with the negative effects of physical and mental well-being including sleep problems, heightened ADHD symptoms, obesity, anxiety and loneliness. “We know that as screen time increases, so does depression and anxiety. As it decreases, so does depression and anxiety,” says Killebrew.
Studies show that children who use mobile devices from a very early age can develop problems self-regulating their behavior. Killebrew says children 6 to 10, it should be limited to three hours and should not interfere with sleep, exercise, and other healthy behaviors. Ages 11 to 17 should limit their screen time to 7 hours per day, which includes classroom time.
Parents play a critical role in helping kids and teens learn to use devices responsibly. “Our job as parents is to raise [children to become] wise adults,” says Killebrew. “It is to raise wise adults. Kids 11 and older especially need the opportunity to make mistakes with us there to guide them through. Setting realistic boundaries and monitoring them helps us do that.”
Different child expert groups offer different suggestions for managing your kid’s screen time, but here is the most common advice that Killebrew agrees parents should consider:
Ages 6 to 10
- Preview shows, games, and apps prior to allowing access so that you know what they are consuming.
- Make sure your kid is nearby during screen time so you can supervise their activity and help them process what they’re seeing and hearing.
- Use parental controls to filter content.
Ages 11 to 17
- Work with your kid to set reasonable limits on the time and types of media they use. Then monitor that time and filter the content via parental controls.
- Encourage unplugged time reading, exercising, playing and spending time with friends and family.
- Keep screens out of your kid’s bedroom, especially at bedtime, and consider making their last hour before bed screen free.
- Praise their positive screen use and appreciate when your kid uses media in a productive, creative and educational way.
Family Online Safety Pledge
Make sure your kids understand that being online comes with responsibilities. This pledge provides guidelines to help your kids and teens use their devices and the internet safely.
More Resources for Parents
Read more helpful articles about restricting content, limiting screen time and setting boundaries for social media in the C Spire Parents’ Resource Center.