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  • Writer's pictureDr. Samantha Scott-O'Bannon

Is Screen Time Bad?

Screen time has been a hot topic for many years. With the increase in screen time resulting from the pandemic, many parents are left questioning whether they are hindering their child’s development by allowing more screen time.

Well, the short answer to the question is: IT DEPENDS!

For years, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and World Health Organization (WHO) have put out guidance regarding screen time. Specifically, the AAP recommends the following[1]:

· No screen time (other than video chatting with family members) for children under 18-months.

· For children 18 to 24-months-old, limit media use to “high-quality programming” that is supervised.

· Children ages 2-5 should limit screen time to 1-hour per day of supervised, high-quality programming.

· Children ages 6+ should have limits on time spent watching, along with the quality of media and time of day.

With that said, there is a growing body of literature that suggests that while we should limit the types of media, there are also potential benefits of screens when they are used as learning tools/aids. While younger children typically do NOT learn from screens (based on the research), as they get older, children may learn meaningful information from screens. Below are some highlights of some newer research findings:

· Greater screen time between the ages of 24 and 36months was linked with poorer performance on behavioral, cognitive, and social skills.[2]

· Children who watched educational shows like “Super Why!” and “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” outperformed their peers on pre-reading measures (letter-sound identification, alphabet recognition) and showed greater emotion recognition and empathy.[3],[4]

Ultimately, all screen time isn’t created equal. It’s important to monitor screen time and limit it to appropriate content, within designated time limits. If possible, select good quality educational options that will provide learning opportunities for your children. It is also helpful to find time to discuss the concepts learned during these shows or movies (e.g., If watching the movie “Inside Out” take some time to discuss the different feelings, along with times you’ve experienced them and how you appropriately managed. This allows you to model good emotional regulation skills).

For those of you wondering about video games, while this topic should be discussed in a different post, use the same principles. There are plenty of educational “video games” (e.g., JumpStart Academy, Zoombini’s) that have evidence to support their ability to improve your child’s academic and social-emotional skills, and they’re fun!


[1] [2] Madigan S, Browne D, Racine N, Mori C, Tough S. Association Between Screen Time and Children’s Performance on a Developmental Screening Test. JAMA Pediatr. 2019;173(3):244–250. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2018.5056 [3] Journal of Children and Media, Vol. 10, No. 4, 2016 [4] International Journal for Cross-Disciplinary Subjects in Education, Vol. 6, No. 1, 2015

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