What age should parents start limiting screen time for their children?

Navigating the digital age as a parent brings with it a host of challenges, not least of which is deciding when and how to introduce children to screens and technology. This question is increasingly relevant in a world where digital devices are ubiquitous, offering both incredible resources for learning and development, as well as potential risks to physical and mental health. In addressing the question of what age parents should start limiting screen time for their children, it’s important to consider the recommendations of health experts, the developmental needs of children, and strategies for implementing screen time limits effectively.

The Importance of Limiting Screen Time

Before diving into specific ages, let’s explore why it’s crucial to consider limiting screen time. Excessive screen time has been linked to various negative outcomes, including sleep disturbances, impaired social skills development, obesity due to reduced physical activity, and exposure to inappropriate content. Additionally, overuse of screens can impact children’s attention spans and may contribute to behavioral issues.

Expert Recommendations

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers specific guidelines suggesting that children under 18 months should avoid the use of screen media other than video chatting. For children aged 18 to 24 months, screen time should be limited to high-quality programming, and parents should watch it with their children to help them understand what they’re seeing. For children aged 2 to 5 years, screen time should be limited to one hour per day of high-quality programs, with parents co-viewing and engaging in discussions about the content. For children aged 6 years and older, consistent limits on the time spent using media, as well as the types of media, should be enforced, ensuring that screen time does not interfere with adequate sleep, physical activity, and other behaviors essential to health.

Understanding Developmental Needs

The rationale behind these age-specific recommendations lies in the developmental needs of children. Infants and toddlers are in critical periods of brain development, where direct interactions with caregivers and their environment are crucial for developing cognitive, language, motor, and social-emotional skills. Introducing screens too early can disrupt these developmental processes. As children grow, screens can begin to play a more educational role, but it’s essential that screen time does not replace activities that are critical for development, including play, physical activity, and interpersonal interactions.

Strategies for Limiting Screen Time

  1. Create a Family Media Plan: Establishing clear rules about screen use, including what types of media are appropriate and when screens can be used, can help manage children’s screen time. This plan should be flexible enough to accommodate different ages and developmental stages.
  2. Lead by Example: Parents should model healthy screen habits, showing children that screen time can be balanced with other activities.
  3. Encourage Other Activities: Providing alternatives to screen time, such as outdoor play, reading, and hobbies, can help reduce reliance on screens for entertainment.
  4. Engage in Co-viewing: Especially for younger children, watching programs with them and discussing the content can enhance the educational value of screen time and mitigate some of its negative effects.
  5. Use Parental Controls and Apps: Technology itself can be a tool in managing screen time, with apps and controls available to help limit access to content and monitor usage.


In conclusion, while the digital age presents new challenges for parents, by adhering to expert recommendations and being mindful of the developmental needs of their children, parents can navigate these challenges effectively. Starting to limit screen time from an early age, specifically under 18 months, and adjusting these limits as children grow, ensures that screen time can be a positive element in children’s lives rather than a detriment. Balancing technology use with other vital developmental activities is key to raising well-rounded, healthy children in today’s tech-saturated world.

click here to visit website