Screen Time Questions

Updated on June 18, 2013
A.B. asks from Pittsburgh, PA
19 answers

Other than trying to assuage my mommy guilt over allowing too much of it thanks to having a nursing newborn and a preschooler, I'm truly wondering...

1. Do you set limits on screen time?

I know there are studies that link an excess of it with ADHD, social delays and obesity, but there are others that debunk them, saying that these conditions are not foregone conclusions. I just read an post on the topic of NOT limiting them that made some interesting points:

That said, it seems that the studies FOR elimintaing / limiting screen time are mostly citing TV shows that are fast -paced and interrupted by commericials, so that brings me to question #2...

2. Are all sreens considered equal? If a preschool child is watching a show on Netflix that is age-appropriate and contains no commercials, is that better? If he / she is interacting with a learning game on an iPad, is that just as harmful as "gaming" or the "mindless passivity" of TV or is it helpful? What makes the difference, in your opinion?

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answers from Honolulu on

No matter what, there should just be a balance, of activities.
Indoors. Outdoors.
Sitting. Running around.
Couch potato. Hiking.
Doing on screen "learning." Doing real life hands on learning and creativity.

Not all day at a screen.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

i dont set a screen time. if i feel that they should be outside or doing something else I tell them to shut it down and go do something else. They are really good about not just sitting all day. They are both highly active in sports and play outside plenty so if they feel like watching a show or playing a game I let them.

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Albuquerque on

My mother is an educational consultant and one of the leading screen time experts in the Northeast. She's made a career of learning about screen time. Her advice to me (paraphrased):

You've got to do what you've got to do. It's far better to put your toddler in front of Little Bear or Sesame Street while nursing the baby than getting all stressed out.

Children's brains do not react the same to screens as they do to real life objects. They're more passive, and use less of their brains while watching TV. So as much as we all think they're learning -- they're actually learning less than they would while playing/running/climbing/holding a book, etc.

Commercials are awful for kids... teaches them at a very very young age to be consumers. So pick recorded TV or movies that don't have commercials.

Learning games are slightly better than TV, but again - there's nothing they'll learn on an iPad that they can't learn more effectively by following mom or dad around the house, interacting with peers, etc.

My mom is not an anti-TV crusader, but she does say that every single peer reviewed, valid study done has shown that the more screen time a child has, the lower his social abilities and the higher his risk for ADHD and obesity. TV does not cause ADHD, but it can and does change brain pathways in small children, especially those with a genetic predisposition. The studies that show there's no problem with TV have been sponsored by Disney or MGM or whomever.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I am a mom of 3. My boys are 10 1/2 and 7 1/2 and my daughter is 2 1/2. I do not limit screen time, per say, but I want them outside playing at least 2 hours a day. Sometimes, when it's raining (hey, it's Seattle!) that makes it a bit tricky, but during the summer months they are outside for 5-7 hours a day. The older boys both play soccer, so we are at practice 2 hours a day 5 days a week between the two of them and y daughter comes to the practices and runs around.
My kids are thin and healthy. They are pretty well behaved. They are not violent. They are great kids ifIdosaysomyself! lol And sometimes we watch TV all day long and sometimes we don't watch it at all. As long as it's not an obsession, I don't see the problem.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

I think that TV has such a bad reputation now. It's really funny to me. Our TV's are on when we are home. The kids hardly ever just sit and watch. They do occasionally have 1 or 2 shows they really like and will sit down to watch.

For my granddaughter it is Winx and Monster High. For my grandson it's Phineus and Ferb. They have either Nick or Disney on all the time though. It's more like background noise.

She's in the 97% in testing and he's normal.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

I don't limit it, but if it's nice outside I make them shut stuff off and go outside. Or if I just feel they've been on a computer or whatever too long I tell them to go do something else. Or when we're eating dinner and I ask them to shut off and they don't do it in a timely manner then they get their electronics taken away for a specific time. My kids are 6 & 9. I also can't be a hypocrite when I sit and watch TV. We've never had a problem at our house. Both kids are doing very well in school, they both read and all homework gets done before they can play or anything. Also we have an electronics free meal time, except for special treats when we will watch a movie and eat.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

My son little over 3 1/2 and I never really limited his tv time. He watched Baby Einstein and similar shows since he was little biddy. He's been playing with laptop and tablets since he was 1 y/o and I had no problems with it whatsoever.

Sure he didn't watch it all the time, I may be tried to limit his tv/computer time couple times, but I really had no reason for it. We going to park every day if weather is good or he goes to childcare while I'm at the gym. We have no cable, but we do have local channels with PBS and Cubo and sure we got netflix. One of his favorite shows are "How its Made" and "Mighty Machines". He also playing with when he wants too.

When my son went to preschool some of the teachers had some concerns about ADHD or ADD, but concern went away - he just outgrow it.

I think honestly that sometimes we need ignore all those studies and do what we think is right.

So, I would say wise amount of tv /computer/tablet not going cause ADHD or obesity. Unhealthy food and style of life will.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

We have a summertime rule: No electronics during the daytime!

They are not allowed to use or watch any 'screen' after breakfast through before dinner! Before breakfast & after dinner are OK times that they are allowed to plug-in!

I only do it because its usually beautiful outside and u want them out there playing and getting some exercise!!

I am not one of those that believe strongly about kids being negative effected by TV and Video games...but I am a firm believer in 'everything in moderation' ...ya know?!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

IF my kids parked in front of the tv and stared like mindless zombies, then yes, we'd limit tv and screen time. But they don't. They'll watch, *actually* watch, maybe 3 shows a day....but our tv is always on. I was used to it growing up and before kids I needed it for "background noise". Certainly don't need that with 3 kids!

TV doesn't cause obesity. Kids who eat garbage food and sit around all the time causes obesity. I personally can't speak to the ADHD part of it as I've never really been exposed to anyone with ADHD - but everyone I know watches TV.....go figure!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

It's not always WHAT the kids are watching if you're talking about TV, it's the fact that they are sitting, immobile, staring at the TV and not doing anything.

One night I was putting the grill away. My husband and his daughter were watching TV. I was outside and I peeked in the window. What I saw was freaky! They were sitting on the couch, STARING at the TV, almost slack-jawed. The TV looked like it was flickering hypnotically, and they LOOKED hypnotized. It seriously CREEPED ME OUT!

I have found that when my daughter has too much screen time, and I mean TV, video games, etc., she gets distant and irritable. She acts like she's not living in present time, and she makes poor decisions. It's like she forgets how to think. She also is way more prone to telling me she's bored if she's not constantly being entertained. It's like they get lazy and expect something to do the entertaining FOR them.

I don't have strict limits on screen time, but I do make her cut back when I see her getting distant or bored too easily. Usually a few days of screen-free time and she's back to normal. Sometime she even becomes MORE creative and actually will choose to do something different like play her guitar, or write a song, or make up a dance, or do an art project.

I think the amount of screen time depends on the child and the lifestyle you lead. I do like to have the TV available for when I need to get some work done and she needs some entertainment. I'm sure most of us grew up watching TV shows at night and Saturday morning cartoons and we are all just fine :)



answers from Pittsburgh on

I limit screen time. My kids love to play Wii, DS, on the computer and iPAD. They are only 3 and 7. For me, it's not so much the 'mindless passivity' of TV or other screens. They are not all bad, there are some really good websites out there for math and reading enrichment.

For me, the issue is that when they are having screen time - any kind of screen time - they are not moving around, developing hand-eye coordination, learning to play sports, learning to play on a team, developing social skills, etc. So in my house, every day from breakfast until dinner is 'no electronics time' which means no TV, handheld games, computer, etc. Then in the evening, if we all need to chill for a little bit before bedtime, I am ok with that.



answers from Chicago on

The kids I nanny for get 1/2 hour of screen time per day. .com it covers any and all screen types. Computer, video game, handheld devices, tv. So they have to make choice of what they want to do. They can earn more up to another half hour. But that's it. I told their dad that I was fine with that except on 100 degree days at which time we would sit like slugs in the afternoon and watch the old Disney movie which they have never seen. He laughed and said ok.

These kids are well adjusted and they play.



answers from Chicago on

My kids have always just streamed on Netflix. I was hoping to keep them away from commercials until they were around 7, when critical thinking starts to really develop. In any case, we recently discovered qubo. We bought a dvr, so they can skip the commercials.....but they still watch them.

As to limits. We do about 2 hours a day. This does not include computer time. They sometimes play computer games for 30 minutes or so in the morning, but it isn't daily.

I think quality of show is important. And I also think what the are doing the rest of the time is important. I've never noticed any issues with kids. They are super creative and imaginative, and they spend tons of time outside. We just have quiet TV time in the afternoon, instead of naps. They watch lots of great shows, and learn lots of interesting things.

I think screen time gets far too bad of la wrap. I have no real problems with it.



answers from Washington DC on

No, not all programing is equal, BUT be careful. "Age appropriate" doesn't necessarily mean neuro-developmentally appropriate. Lots of shows with CONTENT for young kids is really TOO fast on the screen to be healthy. It isn't about the pace of the STORY, but about the quick changes to the actual scene... camera angles, backdrops, random flashes etc. When you watch the show, ask yourself "is this show asking me to maintain visual and mental focus, or to quickly and regularly shift and adjust my focus?" If it's the latter, it's better to avoid for little kids.

That being said, even with my careful monitoring of screens in his early years, DS has ADHD... but he certainly got it honestly, because so do I (raised almost entirely without screens... I mean we barely had until I was in middle school).

To the other part of your question: We set limits on screen time primarily by requiring that DS "earn" screen time each day by getting five "checkmarks." He gets them for chores as well as for things like reading for 20 minutes, doing work in a problem solving book, or being a good sport for his non-preferred activities.

He uses a desktop computer for most of his screen time both for games, websites and watching Netflix... most of what he does you would consider "educational" because that's what he likes.... he plays online chess against other kids, plays a superhero adventure game, or goes on cool-math.

Anyway. We use Microsoft family safety to restrict his computer use so in addition to only accessing specific sites and programs, his user id only gets a two-hours (total) each day, (if he forgets to log out the timer keeps going and he's just SOL later in the day). AND there is a curfew so it logs him off at dinner time regardless of whether he's reached the limit.

The only thing he watches on the real tv is stuff we're doing as a family (mainly Jeopardy! or the news) and there's no time limit as long as he has his 5 checkmarks.


answers from Grand Forks on

When my kids were pre-schoolers I didn't exactly set limits on screen time, but we stayed busy so that there just wasn't time for a lot of screen time. I took the kids out and nursed on the go. I don't have a problem with tv, movies or gaming, but I prefer to be out in the world doing stuff and save the screen time for a rainy day or as something for the little ones to do while I make dinner. Now that they are school age I limit screen time in much the same way. They are busy with other stuff most of the time, but if they want to spend Friday evening playing games or watching movies then so be it. If I feel like they have had enough screen time I will suggest they go outside.


answers from Tampa on

TV does NOT cause ADHD, I have ADHD and growing up I hardly ever watched tv. We were always outside, camping durning the summers ect... In my house my son does have access to a tv in his room, as well as handheld electronics however he prefers to play outside or with toys and read books. He's never been into tv, and yes he does have ADHD and bipolar disorder. He was considered overweight because of meds he took but we have since changed them and he's down at least 20 pounds.


answers from Austin on

My SIL has 2 sons. They are obsessed with all screen time. TV, Video games and Computers.

One is really so into it, he is now in college studying Computer programing.. He is designing APPS and Games.

When they were young, she told them they could pick their screen time, to equal their Book reading, swimming and doing chores.

Behaviors that were not acceptable.. took away time.

They still were obsessed with it, but she felt like at least they had time away from it too.


answers from Pittsburgh on

With many things, it depends on the child. My son would not watch tv shows or movies until after 3yo, he was too buys. He would occassionally watch videos of real construction work being done, but just long enough to get more ideas on how to play with his own toys. He turned 5 last month, and the last 2years have been with no limitations on time, but expectations on how to earn.
He has to earn screen time (tv, laptop, my phone, kindle, Wii, etc) by fulfilling certain things during the day and improving behaviors that needed working on (these change approx every 6mos). He has to use them appropriately (sitting down, using care). He has to obey requests (if I need my phone, I ask politely and he returns politely) (if I ask him to turn off the tv for dinner, he has to do so). We have to participate with him (play Wii, watch/monitor what he sees). And he can't have screen time to fall asleep, only stories.
There has been no need in changing what has worked so well the past 2 years. He still loves activity and outdoors most of all. There were times when he would have several hours/day during this past winter - or maybe it felt like several hours because I could not take another day of playing Wii, haha. He learned more about numbers/adding/subtracting after a few days of Kirby's Return to Dreamland, than he did the whole year of preschool.
School ended May 9th, and he hasn't played Wii once or looked at the laptop once. He's used my phone a few times - today he only used it long enough to look up a Transformers song that he wanted me to buy :)
And TV has been on here and there.
Whatever works for the child/family.



answers from Dallas on

I think the Ipad learning things are great and wish we had that stuff when my kids where young. But I don't think that any type of screen time can cause ADHD or delay social skills. I don't even think it has anythign to do with obesity in children. but that one I don't know. But ADHD is a chemical issue not watching too much TV. My kids have always been into TV, Movies and not that they are older video games. I don't set a limit persay on how much they can play or watch but do have a schedule for them for the summer of when they have to do other things and when those are done they are welcome to play or watch what they want that is age appropriate. They are 14 and 11. My 14 year old until this year made straight A's and this year has been mostly A's, a few B's and C's but all Pre AP classes. The sceen does not effect his grades or learning. My youngest we think does have ADHD TV is not a factor with him either. And he does not take meds he does compatiton gymnastics and that helps him learn to focus.

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