Rules & Times
How much screen time for what age?
The main quibble between parents and children in the digital age: how many hours of screen time are ok – and is it a difference whether the kids play online games or chat with friends? Like all important questions, this one can only be answered with a clear “it depends”. Researchers, educators, medical professionals and all sorts of additional experts, in fact, do not agree at all. Most recommend sticking to a few general rules.
0-1 years: Better not at all
- Babies are not able to consciously react to screen stimuli. They simply imitate the gestures their parents make on digital devices. Only at about one year they understand that objects on the screen are not real.
1-2 years: Less is more
- As long as the parents are present, from now on a few minutes a day are acceptable: one year old toddlers understand simple stories told in pictures and are interested, for example, in taking pictures with the smartphone.
3-4 years: The magic quarter
- Many psychologists say that up to 15 minutes a day are enough at kindergarten age. Guided by the parents and rather on the tablet than on a laptop or desktop device.
5-6 years: 30 minutes, but not daily
- Listen to music, watch movies, play simple games: this is what many preschoolers can handle quite well on a digital device. As they are not yet fully able to read and write, adult help is still required.
7-10 years: 1 hour as a reference
- For elementary school children experts recommend about 60 minutes of ‘free’ screen time daily. The more often the parents let them play on their own, the more important it is to have parental control tools and settings in place. The family should also talk about how the kids are spending their online time.
11-12 years: Time for a weekly budget
- 90 minutes a day maximum – this is the expert advice for kids on the verge of puberty. Many kid this age are mature enough to work on a weekly budget. This should be within a framework of 10 hours.
from 12 years: about 14 hours per week
- The older the offspring gets, the more difficult it becomes for parents to enforce fixed screen time. Especially as teens usually spend a lot of time out and about with their own smartphones. Two hours a day or 14 hours per week are considered to be reasonably realistic maximum mark.
More important than screen time alone, no matter what age: passively consuming content online is totally different to taking action, getting creative and, for example, start programming. If you are tired of the endless arguments over time limits, it is best to regularly talk about who is doing what, when and why exactly in the digital world. Agreeing on family rules, which the adults follow as well, might also be helpful.