Screen time at home: Healthy habits
Children and teens have access to more digital media than ever before, including televisions, computers, tablets, smartphones, and video games.
You can help your child develop healthy media habits by minimizing and monitoring screen time, and by teaching them to use digital media safely with the following tips.
For young children (toddlers and preschoolers)
- Make sure your child watches programs or content you are familiar with and, whenever you can, watch them together.
- Explain what they see on the screen and repeat activities like sharing, giving, or singing in real life to teach her why these things are important.
- Read app reviews and try apps before your child uses them.
- Look for educational apps or programming. They should be age appropriate, have a clear learning goal, and encourage your child’s participation.
- Look for simple pictures and storylines that have a logical sequence of events.
- Look for videos that use clear and simple language.
- If your child has learned everything about the app, upgrade to the next level or try a new app to keep the learning going.
- Avoid commercial or adult programs.
- For children aged 2 to 5 years, limit total daily screen time to under 1 hour. Screen time is not recommended for children under 2 years. For more information on screen time and young children, click here.
- Don’t rely on screens to calm your child. Here are some other strategies you can try.
For school-aged children and teens
- Whenever possible, preview content to make sure it is age-appropriate.
- Get involved in your child’s media use. Find out what she enjoys and why. Encourage her to talk about what she watches.
- Learn about ratings systems for television, music, movies and video games.
- Avoid violent content. Notice whether there are any changes in how your child behaves after watching scary or violent shows, or playing video games.
- Help your child recognize and question advertising messages. Educate him about the strategies that advertisers use to sell products to children and teens.
- When helping to choose content, pay attention to messages about gender, body image, violence, diversity and social issues. Explain why certain programs are not appropriate. This is a chance to share your own beliefs and values.
- Talk about the difference between fantasy and reality.
- Encourage your child to watch programs that help teach, such as shows about nature, science, the arts, music or history.
- Balance screen time with sports, hobbies, creative and outdoor play.
- Make a rule that homework and chores must be finished before screen time.
- Make sure late-night online chatting, surfing and texting with friends doesn’t cut into important sleep time.
- Ask your child or teen to give you their cell phone at a certain time at the end of the day so they aren’t interrupted with phone calls or text messages during family time.
For the whole family
- Children learn from what they see. Be a good role model with your own screen time habits.
- When possible, co-view media with your kids to help them learn from what they are doing, seeing, and saying online.
- Consider developing a family media plan to guide when, how and where screens can—and can’t!—be used.
- Turn off screens during meals and family time. Don’t use the TV as background noise.
- Keep all screens out of bedrooms.
- Find out about programs or apps that provide parental controls. They can help block websites, enforce time limits, monitor websites your child visits, and their online conversations.
More information from the CPS:
Reviewed by the following CPS committees:
- Digital Health Task Force
Last Updated: June 2017