Your Child's Screen Time: Everything You Need to Know

So you purchased a new phone or tablet for your child and you're not sure how to integrate screen time into your child's life. Or perhaps your child is acting out and you're worried the device is to blame. We get it. Parenting in a tech age is a tricky business.

That's why we collected all the key information you need to consider about screen time and children into this one handy resource. We hope this insight helps you stay informed and confident when dealing with setting screen time rules for your family.

How Much Screen Time is Too Much For Children?

This is the No. 1 question parents ask (and we've asked it many times ourselves). We like to think there's a magical combination of hours and minutes that gives kids all the advantages of interacting with technology without any of the negative side effects. For a while, thanks to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it seemed like that was possible .

The AAP, an organization of 64,000 pediatricians and other medical professionals, released strict recommendations for screen time for children under 5. They warned against ANY screen time for children under 18 months of age, and only one hour of screen time a day for kids between the ages of 2 and 5. Learn more about the AAP recommendations in our deep dive, Are My Kids Getting Too Much Screen Time?.

But hold on a moment...

Is Too Much Screen Time Really That Problematic?

Just last year researchers published two studies that call the AAP guidelines into question. These studies suggest that the exact amount of time your child spends on a screen might have less impact than you think. What's more, they show that letting your child spend more than an hour a day on a device could be beneficial!

These studies indicate that the real culprit for behavioral and developmental issues in children isn't how much time your child spends on a screen, it's the nature of their screen use. Does your family set rules for technology use? Does your child watch high quality kids videos or play with educational apps? Are you involved in your child's screen use? Or, more importantly, are you using devices to distract or calm your child instead of teaching them to deal with strong emotions in healthy ways? All of these considerations are more likely to determine whether your child develops problems from screen use.

Read more about the 2017 studies and hear from the researchers themselves in Does Too Much Screen Time Make Kids Addicted?.

When Should I Change My Child's Screen Habits?

There are a handful of common behavioral changes to watch out for if you're concerned your child might be suffering from unhealthy screen use. Take note if your child starts valuing screen time more than what you feel is normal. If your child is no longer interested in things they used to love to do, or if they constantly ask for a device, they may need your help regulating their screen time or the nature of their screen use. Here are a few more warning signs to watch out for:

  • He or she uses the device to feel better after having a bad day.
  • You notice your child appears tired throughout the day or isn't getting enough sleep.
  • Your child complains or throws a temper tantrum when you tell them it's time to turn off the device.

Head over to 10 Signs It's Time to Change Your Child's Screen Time and Habits for the full list.

How Can I Set Screen Time Rules in My Home?

One of the most important steps in promoting healthy screen time for your family is creating a family screen plan. The family screen plan establishes rules and expectations for your child's screen time. It helps you decide:

  • When and how often your child is allowed to interact with screens.
  • Where in the home your child is permitted to use the device.
  • What apps and kids videos your child can interact with during their screen time.

To get started, consider where in your home you want your child to be when they are on a device. You may want to make the dinner table a "no device zone," allowing your family to socialize during dinnertime. Banning devices from the bedroom gives you more opportunity to keep an eye on what your child is watching and prevents them from staying up all night on their favorite app. You may also want to make certain apps and sites off-limits so your child is only interacting with the best fun and educational kids apps and videos.

You also need to determine how much you plan on participating in your child's screen time. Some parents prefer to limit their child to one or two safe, kids apps like Jellies. Some devices come with special features that prevent your child from leaving an app. Other parents take on a more active role by supervising their child's screen time.

We talk more about this and other screen time boundaries in How to Create Your Family Screen Plan.

Are There Ways to Make Screen Time Rules Fun?

Of course! Break out the Sharpies and cardboard boxes, or hunt down a glass jar and some marbles, because the opportunities for making screen rules fun are endless. One of our favorite ideas involves creating a device deposit box where children place their phones and tablets during dinnertime and bedtime. You can also construct a creative device jail box where children leave their devices when they don't follow the rules.

Some families use a rewards system to deal with screen time. Instead of just setting a daily time limit, children complete chores or healthy activities, like reading a book and playing outside, to earn screen time. You can print out customized stickers or labels to use as tokens for screen time, or use things around the house like that jar and marbles.

We compiled a list of some of the best screen time management ideas in Manage Your Child's Screen Time With These Creative and Fun Techniques.

Where Can I Find More Tech Resources For Parents?

We hope this master resource on screen time for children answers all of your questions. For more information on other tech parenting topics, check out the Jellies blog. You'll find resources on digital assistants like Alexa, social media sharing tips, video tutorials, and answers to popular parenting topics like:

Want to try Jellies? Click here to download the Jellies app.