Screen Time Limits By Age: Guidelines and Suggestions

Introduction

There’s no one-size-fits-all guide to parenting. Every child is different and it’s up to each parent to decide how to raise their children.

Especially when it comes to media, it can difficult to decide what to let a child see at different ages.

The rise of the internet has only made this situation more complex and challenging. After all, the range of internet content offers many things that are not at all suitable for young viewers.

Additionally, the popularity of smartphones and digital tablets have become a major source of entertainment for the general public, and especially children.

screen limits

There is a wide range of apps and online videos aimed at children, many of them available free of charge.

We’ve put together some suggestions for screen time limits by age to make sure to young minds don’t experience media saturation.

Ages 3-6

Toddlers often begin to show an interest in video entertainment and smartphone games. At this early stage in their development, children should be limited to only 1 hour or so of screentime per day.

The bulk of toddlers’ mental stimulation should come from in-person interaction or physical toys specifically designed for very young children.

This also happens to be an age range when limiting screen time for children can be easily adhered to.

You can simply remove the phone or tablet from the child’s hands and keep it out of sight for the rest of the day.

screen time limits by age

It’s especially important to keep young children away from electronic devices several hours before bedtime.

Otherwise, they may not be able to sleep until late into the night.

Ages 7-10

Children aged 7 to 10 years old will likely be more familiar with their responsibilities, from brushing their teeth and cleaning their rooms, and also to not overuse electronic devices.

It’s a good idea not to buy a phone or tablet for your children when they’re 7 to 10 years old.

Their only option to access these devices will be to ask you for permission to use them.

Only allow children within this age range to use electronic devices for roughly 90 minutes a day. If your child is using a device for educational purposes, the limit can be increased to around 2 hours.

If they ask to use a device for longer than your pre-determined screentime limit, encourage them to read one of their favorite books or to get some exercise.

These activities will serve the same need for stimulation while avoiding becoming too involved with phones and tablets.

screen time limits by age

If you find your child trying to sneak in extra time with devices at night or during the day without your notice, sit them down and discuss the importance of obedience.

Set light disciplinary actions for exceeding the agreed-upon screentime limits. Explain that in the future you could potentially discuss expanding the screentime limits, pending good behavior.

Ages 11-14

Pre-teens and early teenagers in the 21st century are more likely to have their own cell phone.

If at all possible, try to make their first phone a simple flip phone rather than a smartphone.

This will limit the number of different activities they can use it for. Texting and calling friends should be allowed, up to a point.

But children aged 11 to 14 may also start to spend more time on the computer at home. This is why it would be a good idea to use screentime limits that are built into various devices.

For example, many contemporary internet browsers can be set up so that children can only use them to access certain websites that you’ve pre-approved.

You can also start to set time limits on specific websites (aim for about 2 hours 30 minutes, tops) that will shut down access to the site after that time limit has been reached.

It’s also a good idea at this age to start an open dialogue with your child about why it’s important to limit the use of electronic devices and time spent surfing the internet.

You’ll be surprised how receptive they may be to the idea of setting healthy limits for these devices.

Ages 15-18

By the time your child is in high school, there are a large number of reasons why they may want to spend a significant amount of their free time on a computer or smartphone.

These devices offer a means of socializing digitally with their friends while also sharing important moments and achievements from their own life.

An internet connection also represents a means by which teens can explore a vast array of subject matter.

screen time

It’s an incredible resource when it comes to learning about history, the world at large, and many different elements of the arts and pop culture.

But this doesn’t mean that you should give your teen free reign over how they spend their free time.

Teens’ minds are still developing, and it can be easy to become obsessed with certain apps, online interactions, and social media websites.

If your teen is spending the majority of their time at home on an electronic device, then it may be time to sit them down and talk about other, healthy means of socialization.

Set a tentative screen time limit of 3 or 4 hours each day, depending on their specific personality type and daily habits.

For most teens, this would probably mean encouraging real-life social activities that are also healthy and wholesome.

Ages 19+ (Adults)

As much as we may want to deny it, adults need screen time limits as well.

screen time limits by age

Streaming services offer more entertainment than could ever be consumed by a single person.

It would be entirely possible for someone to simply watch shows on Netflix, Hulu, or any other streaming service for the rest of their life and never even approach the full scope of media offered.

And while a certain amount of screen time is necessary for many different professions, we can also control how much time we spend looking at screens outside of work.

Watching a show when you first come home from work can be a great way to unwind after a stressful day.

But it can be all too easy to let that show keep playing while you waste away on the couch for another evening.

Try to set a personal screen time limit of 3 hours a day, outside of work-related activities. You may want to expand the limit for special occasions or weekends, but it’s advisable to monitor your own screen time for significant changes.