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Children’s Screen Time: When and How to Limit Usage

A young boy plays on his tablet

Remember when children played outside all day and made up silly games on car-rides? With technology advancing so quickly, children are now introduced to, and rely heavily on technology from a much younger age than ever before. Dr. Brent Conrad reports that on average, children under the age of two utilize screens for 53 minutes a day, while 2-4-year old’s average 2.5 hours and day and children 5-8 years old average almost 3 hours each day on screen.

While there are some wonderful advantages of your child learning and using technology, there are also some pretty steep concerns that parents need to manage. First, children need to be bored. Sure, this might mean that from time to time your child tries to draw on the wall. But, in the absence of a concrete activity, boredom opens up the possibility for endless creativity. This skill set, to occupy oneself when bored and to utilize creativity, is fleeting from our very-wired society, and can be shown to correlate to increased exposure to screen time. Psychology Today also reports that technology can actually condition the brain to focus attention differently, since most technological usage requires fleeting attention and far less mental energy than reading or interpersonal interaction.

But there is more to think about than just the changing of your child’s brain chemistry, which is of immense importance on its own. With technology comes access to the viral world…and for all that is great on the internet there is just as much to avoid. Children now must understand the importance of searching for appropriate content, avoiding communication with unknown people on the internet, and they must also be taught that there are consequences for the types of content you chose to share on the internet. These concerns are seen by some parents to be a nuanced lesson in responsibility and maturity, but by others as a burdensome management of their child’s actions and interactions. Either way, the use of technology is most certainly exposing our children at a younger and younger age to more of the world than ever before.

There is no right or wrong way to manage your child’s screen time. Every child is different, and so there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question “how and when do I limit screen time?”. That being said, there are three very important aspects to consider that may help you make the right decision for your child.

  • It has been shown that technological usage before bed can make it harder to fall asleep and can even cause restless sleep. Many parents chose to set parameters on usage by time of day, so that electronics are shut off one to two hours before bed.

  • With the heavy prevalence of messaging and video services, parents need to pay special attention to the management of these communication applications. Whether you manage the friend list itself, the timing of the calls and messages, or the location, it is important to thoroughly discuss online safety with your child and make a management decision that helps your child set boundaries. Some parents only allow these applications to be used when they are in the same room. Others simply tell their children they must finish all homework before reaching out to friends. Either way, this is a critical aspect of technological usage to consider.

  • As mentioned above, screen time alters the brain chemistry and typical development of your child. Doing research to decide how many hours a day is a great place to start, but you know your kid better than anyone else. Some children need more restrictions on the amount of screen time each day, and others need less. No matter what decision you make, be sure to communicate this boundary and know that it can always change as your child grows and develops!

Georgia Autism Center provides assessment, diagnosis, coordination of care, educational planning or assistance with the development of IEPs, and support for families of children with special needs. For more information visit

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