How Much Screen Time Should My Toddler Be Getting?

TV or no TV, that is the question. 

Screens are ubiquitous in our modern world. Indeed, a new report conducted by eMarketer found that US adults average almost 8 hours on digital devices per day. But should our little ones be doing the same?

A recent study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) found that:

  • The hours of television children consume is correlated with obesity.
  • Children under age 2 don’t learn from media as well as they do from live interactions.
  • Viewing media with parents can protect children against many risks associated with screen time.
  • Few children meet sleep, screen time, and physical activity guidelines though they are associated with the best mental health outcomes in adolescents.

After extensive research, the AAP now recommends that parents should adopt a mindful, balanced approach to digital media. Banning screens outright, says Jon Lasser, PhD, a psychologist at Texas State University, may backfire and cause children to crave them even more. Since the time of Adam and Eve, the forbidden apple has always been sweeter. Further, creating such a doctrinaire environment can rob children of their self-reliance.

Furthermore, the research suggests that parents should, where possible, be with their kids when they consume media. Keeping an open line of communication around media helps protect kids if they run into inappropriate content, says Victor Strasburger, MD, a pediatrician and professor emeritus at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine.

Moreover, consuming content together allows for more quality time between parent and child- important, considering that young children learn more from live interactions than from produced content.

Regarding time limits, that two hours appears to be the sweet spot. Multiple studies have found that screen use of more than two hours a day correlates with depressive symptoms. This is something you can discuss with your child and come to an agreement that you can both get on board with.

Above all, involve your child in the process, and try to make as much of their screen time as possible a group activity and regulated in ways in which they agree to.