Screen Time for Kids: How Much is Too Much?

April 3, 2024
Diane Almanzor

Have you ever wondered about the whole deal with screen time for both parents and kids? You're not the only one scratching their head over this. How much screen time is okay depends on how old you are, and it's reshaping the way families hang out together. Sure, our screens can be super helpful and fun, but they can also be a double-edged sword, especially if we're glued to them too much.

Studies have shown that if parents are always buried in their screens, chances are their kids will end up doing the same. The time you spend staring at your phone or laptop could influence your kids to do the same. It's a bit of an eye-opener, right?

Here's a wake-up call: around 87% of kids are clocking in more screen time than what's recommended by the American Pediatric Academy. That's a huge number, and it's kind of a red flag for us to think about the downsides of too much screen time for our little ones.

And it's not just about being a couch potato. Spending too much time on screens can lead to all sorts of not-so-great stuff like obesity, slouching, feeling down, or even being stressed out. That's why it's super important for both parents and kids to keep an eye on their screen time. It's all about staying healthy, both in the mind and the body, especially now that we live in such a digital world.

What's Screen Time Doing to Us?

Screen time basically covers all the moments you're staring at screens, like when you're watching TV, scrolling through your phone, or working away on your computer. And what you're doing on these screens can vary a lot, right? It could be for work, school, or just for fun.

When we talk about screen time for work, it's all about how you use your gadgets for your job. Think emailing, hopping onto Zoom calls, whipping up documents, or anything else that falls under your professional to-do list.

Then, there's the educational side of screen time. This is all about using your tech for learning or school stuff. Whether that's joining a virtual classroom, diving into ebooks, or tackling online assignments, it's all part of the digital way of hitting the books.

And then there's the fun part of screen time, which is all about kicking back and enjoying yourself. This is when you're using your devices for entertainment, like binge-watching your favorite series, diving into video games, scrolling through social media, and all that good stuff that helps you unwind.

Did you know, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, kids between the ages of 8 and 18 spend around 7.5 hours daily just on entertainment screen time? That's a lot of hours spent in the digital world of fun and games each day.

Also, when we talk about how we're using all these gadgets, it boils down to two main types: passive and interactive screen time.

Passive screen time is when you're just soaking up what's on the screen without getting involved. It's the chill-out mode—like watching a movie or listening to a podcast. It's pretty relaxing, and it's an excellent way to take a break. But here's the catch: it's not so great for your mental or physical health if you overdo it. Too much passive screen time can make you feel worse off in the long run.

On the other hand, interactive screen time is when you're actively engaging with what's on the screen, like playing a video game, using an educational app, or even just chatting with friends online. It's more about participation and can be really stimulating and fun. 

But just like anything, too much of it can be not good. Going overboard with interactive screen time can lead to behaviors that look a lot like addiction. That's why being mindful and balancing are important to avoid falling into that trap.

How Harmful is Too Much Screen?

On the physical side, spending too much time in front of screens can lead to many health issues. Think obesity, slouching in your chair all day (hello, poor posture!), and a drop in how fit you are

Basically, the more time you're glued to your screen, the less time you have to get up, move around, and do stuff that's good for your body.

And it's not just about your body getting out of shape. Staring at screens for too long can really do a number on your eyes, causing strain and even messing with your vision over time. 

Plus, it can throw off your sleep fiercely, making it harder to catch those Zs. That's why watching how much screen time you're clocking in is vital to dodging these physical pitfalls.

When we shift gears to look at the mental side, it's clear that too much screen time is no friend to our mental health, either. We're talking about the risks of depression and anxiety and even making it challenging for kids and teens to develop social skills. 

With so much of our lives happening through screens, cutting back and managing our screen time is crucial. It's all about finding that balance to avoid these mental health traps and make room for real, meaningful connections.

What's the Right Amount of Screen Time for Children?

When it comes to how much screen time is okay for kids, it really depends on their age. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other health organizations have laid out some guidelines to help parents navigate this digital age.


The recommendation is pretty strict for the littlest ones, toddlers aged 1-2 years. Babies under 18 months should ideally have zero screen time, except for video chats with family—it's hard to argue against a baby's first "hello" over Skype! 

But for kids between 18 and 24 months old, a tiny bit of screen time is okay (we're talking less than an hour). The catch is that it should be high-quality, educational content, and they shouldn't be left to zone out alone; a caregiver should be engaged with them.


Moving up to preschoolers, ages 3-5 years, they get a bit more leeway. They can have up to an hour of screen time, but again, the emphasis is on quality content that isn't just educational but also encourages interaction and play beyond the screen.

School-age children

For school-age children, those between 6 and 12 years old, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) suggests capping media time at 2 hours. This is also the age to really start encouraging activities that don't involve screens and fostering healthy habits that can last a lifetime.


Ages 13-18 get the same 2-hour guideline for recreational screen use. This includes all the fun stuff like social media, video games that aren't for school, and binge-watching their favorite shows. The idea is to balance screen time with other activities contributing to their physical and mental well-being.

Parental Strategies for Managing Tech Time

For parents looking to curb the negative effects of excessive screen time at home, here are some practical tips that can really make a difference:

  1. Be the Role Model with Your Screen Use

Kids look up to you for almost everything, including how you use your screens. By setting a good example—like showing them real-life conversations and activities are more important than what's happening on your device—you're teaching them valuable lessons about healthy screen habits. To reinforce these habits, make it a point to limit your screen time, especially when the kids are around.

  1. Create Screen-Free Zones and Times

Why not make certain spaces in your home screen-free havens? The dinner table, the cozy corners of your living room during family time, and yes, even those bedrooms can become zones where digital buzz doesn't intrude. It's about crafting a family agreement that everyone, kids and adults alike, can get behind.

  1. Push for Screen-Free Activities

Encourage your kids to get involved in activities that don't involve screens. Whether it’s a trek in the great outdoors, a deep dive into the pages of a captivating book, picking up a new hobby, or laughing over board games on family night, these are the moments that count. Bringing the kids into the kitchen for a cooking session or rallying the troops for community service are also priceless ways to enrich family ties without a pixel in sight.

  1. Keep an Eye on Screen Content and Have Open Dialogue

Keeping tabs on and chatting about the digital content your kids consume is key. Regularly touching base on their online explorations and having honest talks about their digital encounters empowers them to make wise choices online. 

Screen Time Check: How Much is Beneficial?

In this world where screens are everywhere, figuring out the right amount of screen time for us and our kids is super important. 

The American Pediatric Academy has some guidelines highlighting how bingeing on screen time can throw a wrench in everything from health to kids' social skills. The game plan? Keep tabs on screen usage and strive for a harmonious tech-life balance.

As parents, walking the talk makes all the difference. Carving out screen-free sanctuaries at home and championing offline adventures can set the stage. Open chats about digital dos and don'ts can also empower our kids to navigate the tech terrain like pros. In essence, it's about leveraging screen time for its perks while dodging the pitfalls.

Why not make the whole process a bit simpler, right? Tools like Aro can help manage your family's screen habits. It’s a friendly guide to making your family's life more focused and interactive. It's all about helping you switch off the screens and turn towards each other more. So, if you want to bring everyone closer and reduce screen time, Aro could be just what you need.

Related articles

Aro helps families put down their phones to connect, relax, and recharge.

Aro app leaning against the Aro Home device
A close-up, overhead shot of the Aro showing a phone charging in one of the slots.
A family is gathered in the living room. Teenage kids run around while the parents relax on the sofa.

Life happens off your phone

Make phone-free time a part of your daily routine with Aro.