Screentime for children

What is screentime?

"Screen time" is a term used for activities done in front of a screen, such as watching TV or DVDs, using a computer, playing video games on a game console, and even using a mobile phone. When you're a busy parent, it’s an easy way to keep your child quite and entertained while you cook the dinner, take care of household chores, or finish a car journey. You may also feel it's important for your child to get a head start on learning digital skills but studies have shown that too much screen time can be harmful for babies and children. Developing healthy screen time habits while they are still young will help children and teenagers make better choices about how to use their free time when they’re older.

Statistics regarding screentime for kids children

  • Children under two spend, on average, more than two hours every day watching TV or using other screen media like computer games and video games but studies show that children under 2 should not have any screentime at all
  • The average 8-year-old spends eight hours a day using various forms of media, and teenagers often surpass 11 hours of media consumption daily
  • Several studies have linked high media consumption with poor health outcomes. For example, children with TVs in their bedrooms are more liley to be obese
  • Statistics show that excessive tv has been linked to other negative outcomes such as poor cognitive performance , antisocial behaviour and reduced sleep time
  • A study from 2007 found that the more television a baby 8 to 16 months watches, the fewer words she knows. It doesn’t matter if they're watching educational programs because babies learn by interacting with real people-not screens.
  • In 2009, it was reported by the Australian Bureau of Statistics that over 40% of children aged 5-14 watched an average of 20+ hours of television per fortnight. In the same report, it was revealed that 40% of children also spent less than 2 hours per fortnight doing informal physical activity (e.g. riding a bike etc).
  • Children who watch TV for more than two hours every day are more likely to have an unhealthy diet, less likely to eat fruit and less likely to take part in sport or physical activity
  • Kids and teens who watch TV are more likely to snack on foods that are high in sugar, salt or saturated fat.
  • Just under half (44%) of all children and young people (2–17 years) had at least one type of screen-based item (e.g. TV, computer, or game console) in their bedroom. For the 15–17 year olds, three-quarters had some kind of screen-based media in their bedroom and this was associated with them spending an extra two hours per week watching/playing screen-based media compared with those who did not have any such item in their bedroom.

Positives and negatives of screentime


Screen time can help children develop and learn in many different positive ways. Watching TV shows like Sesame Street not only teach children new words, letters and numbers but also valuable life lessons.

Screen time can:

  • Help children’s literacy and increase their knowledge of the world and others.
  • Help children solve problems and think strategically
  • Teach kids new things by playing games
  • Teach children life skills such as sharing and cooperating
  • Help develop fine motor skills and coordination by pressing little buttons and using the small muscles in their fingers
  • Encourage children and young people to read books based on TV and films.
  • Provide information about basically anything they want to find out about which can be very helpful with homework


While electronic devices such as computers can be terrific teaching tools, too much time in front of a screen can lead to many problems such as obesity. The main problem with screen time is that children are using it for too long and not getting the physical activity they need.

Screen time can:

  • Make it hard for your child to sleep at night as it can disturb your child's sleeping pattern which can lead to fatigue and increased snacking or even insomnia
  • Cause eyesight problems if a child spends too much time staring at a screen
  • Negatively effect your child's social skills which can lead to mental health problems
  • Cause behavioural problems from being exposed to violent things
  • Raise your child's risk of attention problems, anxiety, and depression
  • Have a negative impact on a child's attention span and concentration skills
  • Encourage a less active lifestyle as they are just sitting in front of a screen not being active or using any energy
  • Increase your child's risk of gaining too much weight as they aren't being as active as they should be and are eating more
  • Expose a child to confronting and exposed images that can physiologically affect the child
  • Cause problems at school and lower your child's grades as they are ignoring their school work
  • Cause a child to become addicted and neglect other responsibilities

Recommendations of suggested screentime use for children and why these are in place

Recommendations of suggested screentime use for children are put in place so parents know how much screen time their child should be having. The recommendations also help prevent problems which may occur from too much screentime. A healthy family lifestyle includes limits on daily screen time. Screen time can be habit-forming from a very early age and will help children make better choices about using technology when they are older.

Australian recommendations for screentime:

  • Children under two years old do not spend any time viewing TV or other electronic media
  • Children aged 2-5 years should have no more than an hour a day of screen time.
  • Children over five should have no more than 2 hours of screen time for entertainment purposes

Why parents may not stick with recommendations and what strategies they can do to overcome this

Parents may not stick with the recommendations because they may not be aware that screentime can be such a negative thing, they are too busy to monitor their child's screentime usage as they , they use screentime as a way of babysitting, they give in to their children asking to , the parent may not have enough time to play with their child, not sticking to the rules they've set, they use screentime as a way for the family to bond or because screentime is just such a big part of their lives.

Strategies parents can do to stick with the recommendations:

  • leading by example, limiting your own screen time
  • keeping TVs and computers in family spaces and out of children’s bedrooms
  • turning the TV off before school and at dinnertime.
  • Remove the TV or computer from your child's bedroom.
  • Limit the amount of screen time on school days
  • Do not allow TV watching during meals or homework.
  • Decide which programs to watch ahead of time. Turn off the TV when those programs are over.
  • Suggest other activities, such as family board games, puzzles, or going for a walk.
  • Install a shut-down timer on your childs computer that limits the amount of time they can spend on it.
  • Set a switch off time and stick to it.
  • Designate certain days of the week as TV-free or computer-free days.
  • Control TV viewing by encouraging children to pick their schedule in advance rather than just sitting in front of the screen watching whatever is on
How Too Many Screens Affect Our Brain
Screentime and Children Under Two .