Screen time is the time you spend watching TV or DVDs, using the computer, playing video or hand-held computer games, and using a mobile phone. A healthy family lifestyle includes limits on daily screen time.
How much screen time for children?
Not much is the simple answer. Children under two should steer clear of the screen altogether. Children aged 2-5 years should have no more than an hour a day. And children aged 5-18 years should have no more than two hours.
A wide range of activities is important for children’s development. These activities include active physical play, creative and imaginative play, hands-on fun, and anything that involves relationships and interactions with real people.
Developing healthy screen time habits
Developing healthy screen time habits while they’re young will help children and teenagers make better choices about how to use their free time when they’re older.
You can help by:
- setting screen time guidelines according to the ages of children in your family
- leading by example, limiting your own screen time
- offering variety, making sure you have a range of activities and objects to entertain and stimulate your children so they don’t look to the screen so much
- being choosy about what your younger children watch or play on the computer, and taking an interest in what your older children are doing online
- keeping TVs and computers in family spaces and out of children’s bedrooms
- turning the TV off before school and at dinnertime.
TV and DVDs
When young children watch TV and DVDs, they don’t see the same things adults do. Children can be negatively affected by scary, violent or sexualised images, as well as advertising.
Even having the TV on in the background interferes with children’s ability to concentrate on things that are better for their development, like creative or physical play.
For more information about young children and TV, read our articles:
Children and teenagers can use computers to develop their ideas through words, images or music. They can use the internet to explore and find information, build social networks, and to be creative through making their own online content. But children need to learn how to ask questions about the information they find on the internet.
Keep an eye on how long your children spend on the computer. With younger children, make sure you can see what sites they’re viewing. Consider installing programs or filters to block children’s access to inappropriate internet content.
For more information, read our articles:
Video games are electronic, interactive games that can be played on a personal home computer (PC), television or portable hand-held device. The big name brands are Sony PlayStation, Microsoft Xbox and Nintendo.
The best way for children to get the most from video games is for you to play together. An added bonus is that you’ll spend some time with each other and have fun! But if the game contains violence, you might instead talk together about the violence and whether other kinds of games might be more appropriate.
For more information, read our article Video games: playing it safe.
Screen time facts and figures
- Watching ‘free-to-air’ TV is the most common kind of media interaction for Australian children under the age of eight. The use of other media forms increases as they get older.
- 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).
- In 2009, the ABS also reported that 10% of children aged 5-14 played video games for 20 hours or more on average every fortnight.
- A 2007 Australian study found that four-year-olds watched an average of 2.3 hours of TV on weekdays and 2.2 hours on weekends.
- According to US research, two-thirds of babies and toddlers watch a screen for an average of two hours a day. There, kids under six watch an average of about two hours of screen media a day.
Video parents and kids talk about restricting screen time
In this short video, parents and teenagers together discuss the family rules that apply to technology, media use and screen time. Issues include time restrictions on computer use, trusting teenagers to use the internet responsibly, and privacy issues when using chat rooms and other social media, such as Facebook.