How much is too much screen time

How Much Screen Time Is Too Much For Children And Adults?


In the current era, screen time has become a reality – for some, a bitter reality. As our relationship with technology strengthens, so does screen time. According to a finding, teens, on average, spend 7 hours & 22 minutes on their phones a day, while tweens – between the ages of 8 to 12 – spend 4 hours & 44 minutes. Moreover, scientist today suggests that this generation today needs digital detox in order to get away with the side effects of using too many screens.

The entertainment factor is the foremost reason behind sitting with mobiles in our hands, laptops in our laps, and in front of our TV screens. Getting entertained, informed, and connected has never been easier than now. Everything from movies to shows, news to social media, music to games, and educational stuff is readily available on screens 24/7.

So, be it children, adults, or older adults, we all enjoy the convenience of screens. With easy access to smartphones, tablets, TVs, and video games, we’re getting excessive screen time, currently. The burning question is, how much screen time is too much for us?

Average screen time by age

Before we answer how much is too much screen time, let’s give you detailed information on the average screen time for different age groups. The time spent in front of the screen varies by age and it has increased manifold since Covid-19. So, here is the average screen time for different age groups.

  • Kids from 0 to 2 years: 49 minutes a day
  • Kids from 2 to 4 years: 2 to 2.5 hours a day
  • Kids from 5 to 8 years: Over 3 hours every day
  • Screen time for tweens – 8 to 12 years: Around 5 hours every day
  • Screen time for teens: Around 7.5 hours a day

Interestingly, most of this time is spent in recreational activities like video games, recreational apps, entertainment videos, TV, movies, etc. This time doesn’t include screen time spent on homework or educational activities. More importantly, as these are average times, many children and adults in different countries spend much more than these times.

The pandemic has also played a significant role in increasing screen time, as before COVID-19, the screen time was much lower than what we’ve just mentioned. According to JAMA Pediatrics’ 2021 study, children aged 12-13 spent 7.7 hours a day on entertainment stuff on mobiles, tabs, TV and laptops, etc. This is twice their screen time, 3.8 hours a day, before the pandemic.

Effects on Health

The effects of excessive screen time, be it a child, an adult, or an older person, are not good at all.

Less Connected to those Around them

Take the example of social media. The more time a teen spends time on any or multiple platforms, the less connected they will be to people around them.

Moreover, social media forces them to compare themselves with others and match their living habits and styles with others, i.e., unrealistic body ideals which can later turn into eating disorders or depression. They can become vulnerable to binge eating as a result of binge-watching which can result in malnourishment, guilt, or weight gain.

Behavioral Disorders

Too much screen time for preteens may result in behavioral disorders like conduct disorder and oppositional defiant disorder. According to a recent study on children playing games for excessive hours or streaming YouTube, the chances of them developing obsessive-compulsive disorder increase.

Cognitive Issues

Spending too much time streaming content on different screens affects cognitive abilities in the future. The functions developing in the starting years are influenced heavily by environments like screens. When a small kid is exposed to the screen, their brain works to process this information which is meant for older brains.

This unnecessary processing and burden on the brain at such an early age is known to affect the brain’s sensory pathways creating a shortage of those resources later in childhood.

Weight Gain

According to a study in 2017 in the journal Pediatrics, many experiments have found a link between screen exposure and increased chances of weight gain. The connection between the two is proved by factors like less physical movements for hours while sitting in front of the screen, additional and unhealthy eating while consuming content, seeing ads about unhealthy foods and drinks, and less time spent in bed.

Less Time Being Active

Another drawback of too much screen time is kids’ lack of physical activity. The more time they spend in front of the screen, the less they are involved in healthy and physical activities. A randomized clinical trial published in JAMA Pediatrics 2022 report shows lowering kids’ screen time resulted in positive and enhanced children’s engagement, interest, and performance in physical activities.

Sleep Problems

Another impact of more than recommended screen time is sleep deprivation, especially when content is viewed before going to bed. One major factor creating sleep problems is the emission of blue light from electronic gadgets. Another is from viewing activating content.

According to a study in Pediatrics, using a phone before sleeping, increased exposure to it, or having a phone, tablet, or TV in the bedroom resulted in sleep problems for people of all ages. According to Acta Pediatrics, even infants experience sleep deprivation when exposed to screen media in the evening or at night.

School Performance is Affected

Exposure to specific media or content consumption directed at older audiences affects a child’s school performance. The more stuff they watch on TV, mobile or games they play, the more their academic performance will be impacted, as mentioned in the JAMA Pediatrics study of 2019.

According to the study, adolescents are more likely to be affected. However, an article published in the PLOS One journal tells us that younger children are also affected big time. According to the research article, ‘When children as young as five years old experienced more than two hours of screen time a day, there was an increased risk for health conditions, specifically inattention issues.’

How Much Screen time is too Much?

Going by the research combined with the observation in your house and nearby, you know that kids of all ages and adults consume too much screen media and spend hours upon hours in front of the screen. Let’s now review the recommendations regarding average screen time for babies, toddlers, teens, tweens, and adults.

Ideal Screen Time for Babies – up to 18 Months

Babies under 18 months should not watch media on smartphones, tabs, laptops, or TVs at all. Parents are recommended not to expose their babies to screens for their own convenience. However, they can face the screen only when video chatting with their family.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, when a family member or a grandparent lives far off, you can set up a video call between them for interaction. More exposure of babies to modern digital devices can result in excess stress on their visual systems and a high level of sensory stimulation.

Screen time for toddlers – 18 to 24 Months Old

The ideal scenario here is you limit their screen time to zero. However, with mobiles, laptops, and TVs around them, it can be hard to stop them from reaching out for these devices or wanting to know what these screens are for. The time spent by 18 to 24 months toddlers should not exceed 1 hour a day.

Moreover, they shouldn’t be able to access screens independently without an elderly figure around them. This is important as this is when their brain is developing, and they should only consume educational stuff and fun learning techniques.

When introducing your toddlers to electronic content, you must work out the type of content and how long they’ll view it. They must constantly be exposed to educational stuff when accompanied by a parent or caregiver.

Too much Screen Time for Kids: 2-5 years

For kids between 2-5 years, experts suggest a screen time of less than 1 hour on weekdays and less than 3 hours on weekends. They should only be watching educational stuff, videos related to manner learning, and interactive stuff, but only when accompanied by a parent or caregiver.

Also, expose them to larger screens like a TV or a laptop as it will cause less stress on their visuals compared to a smartphone.

Screen Time for Kids: Ages 6 to 10

Restraint their watching time to less than 2 hours a day. Also, children between the ages of 6 to 10 should only watch educational & recreational videos directed toward their age group. Try to arrange for screen-free time. They should participate in healthy activities like cycling, running, game nights, etc.

1-2 hours of physical activity is ideal for them as it helps to develop their body, and as they’ll be tired, they’ll take a full night’s sleep. Also, mix educational stuff with entertainment videos. You can talk to them and try convincing them about lower screen time and why it is helpful. Communicate the rules to your child and the consequences of not following them.

Screen Time for Tweens and Teens

This is where it gets tricky and hard to determine how many hours is too much screen time, as teens and tweens spend a lot of time on screens while completing homework. Still, ensure that kids ages 11 to 17 only spend around 2 hours daily while watching recreational stuff.

The more you limit their screen time except for homework, the more time they can spend doing physical activities with family and friends. Teach them the consequences of spending too much time on the screen and how to become secure by maintaining online privacy and staying away from cyberbullying.

If they are on social media, become friends and keep a close eye on what they do and whom they become friends with. Encourage them to participate in physical activities and tell them the importance of sleep for their age. Remove devices from their room so that their sleep isn’t disrupted.

Screen Time for Adults

It is a known fact that most adults spend a lot of time on laptops, tablets, or phones owing to their jobs, etc. Restrict yourself to 2-4 hours of entertainment stuff daily and limit your work-related activity on screen to 8 hours a day- if possible.

For a healthy balance, take time out for short strolls, and make sure you spend some time every day without any screens with your friends and family. Think about your screen time and don’t use your phone, tablet, laptop, or watch TV excessively.

Plan your screen time, and don’t start using your phone now and then after every few minutes. Take time out for physical activity and if you’re addicted to your phone and scroll the social media with no particular reason, you can either switch off the phone for a few hours every day or try putting it in another room so you can’t easily reach it.

Tips to Reduce Screen Time

Now you know how much is too much screen time, we’re sure your screen media consumption goes beyond the ideal time. And this can be devastating. Why not lower the screen time to make way for a healthier, much more productive life?

As far as the children are concerned, limiting their screen times to under 2 hours a day can be really tough as they may already be spending more than this. However, you can educate them about the cons of an inactive life and how to become more productive and live a healthy life.

Want to Reduce Screen Time?

Here’s how to reduce screen time

  • Shift the TV or computer from the child’s bedroom.
  • Don’t allow them to watch any content while completing their homework.
  • While having meals, they shouldn’t consume any content.
  • Make a plan for entertaining programs for your child’s age group. When it is over, turn the TV off and don’t let them sit in front of it for hours.
  • Make them stream educational content and download such apps that teach them using fun learning techniques.
  • For entertainment and recreation, you can participate in or arrange fun activities like board games, puzzles, scrabble, taking a stroll on the lawn, etc.
  • Maintain a record of how much your child consumes on weekdays and weekends.
  • Make them spend the same amount of time in physical activities that they spent in front of the screen.
  • Monitor their screen activities and tell them the significance of online privacy and why it is essential not to give out their details.
  • Be a good parent/caregiver/elder. Limit your screen time, and your kids will follow.
  • Limiting your screen time will also increase your productivity and boost your health.
  • If it is hard to get away from the screen, use a sleep timer on TV and the same functionality on your laptop and follow it strictly.
  • Arrange weekend trips and family get-togethers like BBQs, long drives, etc. it will help adults and children stay away from the screens.
  • If your job demands sitting in front of a laptop or PC, take frequent breaks and spend that time with no screens in sight.
  • Challenge your kids and family to spend a day or two with phones, laptops, and TV. This way, you and your children will explore many different things.


Digital screens have become an integral part of our lives, and children of today’s age are becoming prone to screens of all sizes. They love to spend time in front of these screens irrespective of the type of content, which can harm developing minds.

Be a responsible parent and keep an eye on what your little ones are watching. Also, they follow their parents and older people in the house. If you limit your screen time and spend more time in healthy activities, they will follow suit.

Help them build healthy habits and educate them about the consequences of too much screen time. Arrange family meetups, support them in physical activities, take them outdoors, and create a balance so that you and your kids live a happy, healthy, and prosperous life.

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