Limiting screen time for young children

How can you set appropriate limits on screen time to set children up for success?

A boy watching TV.

Should you be limiting screen time for your young child? The answer is yes! Too much screen time can have negative effects for children. So how do you know how much screen time is ok? There is no one-size-fits-all answer to that question, but there are ways you can ensure a child’s screen time is productive, appropriate and limited.

Michigan State University Extension has some tips for limiting screen time for young children.

Avoid passive viewing. Make sure that when your child is having screen time, it is active and not passive. Passive viewing is when your young child is sitting still while watching television or movies. They aren’t moving, they aren’t engaged and they aren’t interacting. Video chatting is not passive viewing because it involves active engagement and interaction.

Look for appropriate and high-quality content. Ask yourself, “Can my child understand what they see and hear?” “Will this help my child learn?” “Would it be OK if my child repeated the behaviors they see?” Check out sources like Common Sense Media to help find appropriate, high-quality content for young children.

Engage with your child during screen time. Ask questions such as, “What is happening?” “How do they feel?” “What do you think will happen next?” Children can learn from you when you engage during screen time.

Limit your own screen time. When parents have a lot of screen time, it can lead to fewer interactions with their children, more conflict with children and because children are little copycats, it can also lead to children spending more time in front of screens. Remember, if you are absorbed in screens, you aren’t fully engaging with your child.

Spend quality time together without screens. If choosing to have screen time for your young child, balance it with plenty of quality time together without screens. Make reading a priority, value quality family time and make sure children have lots of time to play.

Screen time is becoming so normal in our lives that it’s unrealistic to think children will never be exposed to screes. But with some thought, a little planning and good limits (try this Family Media Use Plan), you can make the most out of screen time for your young child.

For more articles on child development, academic success, parenting and life skill development, please visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

To learn about the positive impact children and families are experience due to MSU Extension programs, read our 2016 Impact Report. Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways Michigan 4-H and MSU Extension positively impacted individuals and communities in 2016, can be downloaded from the MSU Extension website.

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