Every day, the average American adult spends more than 11 hours listening to, watching, reading, or generally interacting with digital devices (computers, mobile phones, tablets, smart watches, gaming devices etc.). Since most of us consume our information through various internet-connected devices, that means we spend nearly half of every day interacting with a screen.
The statistics for kids are also surprising. By some estimates, 5 to 8 year olds spend nearly three hours watching TV and using smartphones every day. This isn’t ideal — the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends a daily screen time limit of one hour for children ages 2 to 5. It’s also suggested that older children have “consistent limits” on digital device usage.
How do you know when screen time is too much? The answer isn’t always clear, no matter your age, which is why these considerations are helpful to provide guidelines for your screen time and help when determining benchmark time limits for your family as well.
Deciding how much screen time your kids should have is relatively straightforward. "The recommendations are really to minimize screen time in children before age 2,” according to Dr. Angela Mattke, a pediatrician interviewed by her place of employment at the Mayo Clinic.
Dr. Mattke echoes the AAP’s recommendations and explains that, "between ages 2 and 5, we would recommend you keep the screen time to one hour or less per day. And in children that are older than 5, we recommend trying to minimize a recreational or enjoyment-related screen time to two hours or less per day."
The two or fewer hours a day guideline applies to teens as well, but it’s important to note that educational-related screen time isn’t included in the daily total.
Carefully communicating your guidelines and expectations as well as outlining consequences and reasoning behind the short and long-term health implications is important in order to combat your kids resistance to limits on their screen time.
For adults, we often have the tendency to disregard our time spent on digital devices staring at a screen. Once you really start to think about it, the answer might shock you. Knowing the exact number can help you focus on the why and how to take frequent breaks. Learn how to track how much time you spend using your phone.
According to Anya Kamenetz, the author of “The Art of Screen Time: How Your Family Can Balance Digital Media and Real Life,” how much time you should spend on screen boils down to priorities. When technology use stops you from doing the things you need and want to do in life, it’s time to set limits.
For example, is being on screen preventing you from exercising regularly and getting enough sleep. Technology’s negative impact on our lives can have a snowball effect that is easy to neglect. Check in with yourself regularly to make sure you’re living a healthy lifestyle, which does not include one behind a digital device and screen.