Screen Time Recommendations by Age

Little boy with digital eye strain

How Much Time Screen Time Is Right for You and Your Children?

It's hard to imagine life without digital technology. Whether we're doing homework, banking, shopping, writing a report for work, or catching up with friends on social media, most of us spend many hours per day looking at digital screens. Unfortunately, too much screen time can cause problems ranging from sleep disturbances to eye strain and may even affect vision and brain development in children. So how much screen time is ideal?

Screen Time Recommendations

Generally, the younger you are, the less time you should spend in front of screens. Unfortunately, that's not always the case. All About Vision reports that children 0 to 2 spend 49 minutes per day watching screens, while 2- to 4-year-olds devote 2 to 2.5 hours per day to screens. Other screen-watching statistics from All About Vision include more than 3 hours for kids 5 to 8, almost 5 hours for children 8 to 12, and as much as 7.5 hours for teenagers.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) doesn't recommend any screen time for kids younger than 18 months, aside from video chats, and suggests that children 2 to 5 spend no more than 1 hour per day using screens. All About Vision suggests limiting recreational screen time for children and teens over 6 to less than 2 hours per weekday. While the AAP doesn't make specific suggestions for screen time for older children, it recommends making sure that children and teens:

  • Spend 8 to 12 hours sleeping, depending on their age
  • Engage in some type of physical activity for at least one hour per day
  • Spend time away from digital media every day, including designated media-free times, like family dinners
  • Avoid sleeping with computers, smartphones and TVs in their bedrooms

All About Vision advises adults to limit screen time at work to 8 hours, if possible, and recreational use to 2 to 4 hours daily.

The Harmful Effects of Too Much Screen Time

Spending too much time viewing digital screens can cause a variety of issues in children and adults, including:

  • Difficulty Sleeping. Exposure to blue light produced by cell phones, TV, laptops, monitors, and tablets can make it difficult to fall asleep. According to the Sleep Foundation, blue light emitted by digital screens affects the production of melatonin, a hormone that makes you feel sleepy. The Foundation recommends turning off digital devices, including TVs, at least 2 to 3 hours before you plan to go to bed.
  • Digital Eye Strain. Adults and children that use screens are more likely to develop digital eye strain, a condition that causes sore eyes, headaches, blurry vision, and itchy, dry eyes. Blinking more often and taking frequent breaks can help keep your eyes more comfortable when you use digital devices.
  • Language Skills. Too much screen time can affect brain white matter integrity in young children, according to a study published in JAMA Pediatrics. White matter is essential for language development, literacy skills, and executive function.
  • Myopia. Children and young adults who spend too much time focusing on screens may be at increased risk of developing myopia. According to a Science Daily report, researchers discovered that screen time could increase the risk of myopia by 30 to 80 percent, depending on the amount of time spent viewing screens.
  • Convergence Insufficiency. Viewing digital devices for long periods can also increase a child's risk of developing convergence insufficiency. When you look at a near object, both eyes must turn inward to the same degree for clear vision. If one eye turns in more than the others, convergence insufficiency occurs. The disorder causes blurry or double vision when focusing on near objects, eye strain, fatigue and headaches. The focusing problem makes it difficult to keep your place when reading, as words seem to float on the page or screen. A study presented at the American Academy of Ophthalmology's 2021 meeting by Wills Eye Hospital researchers revealed that 61 percent of children experienced convergence insufficiency after increasing screen time during online schooling.

Are you or your children struggling with double or blurry vision, headaches, or other problems related to digital screen time? Vision therapy could help you improve your vision and relieve your uncomfortable symptoms. Contact our office to schedule a visit with the vision therapist.

Sources:

American Academy of Pediatrics: Where We Stand: Screen Time

Sleep Foundation: How Blue Light Affects Sleep, 4/12/2022

Science Daily: Screen Time Linked to Risk of Myopia in Young People, 10/17/2021

American Academy of Ophthalmology: New Research Shows Virtual School Can Harm Children's Vision, 11/13/2021

All About Vision: Screen Time Recommendations by Age, 2/13/2022

JAMA Pediatrics: Associations Between Screen-Based Media Use and Brain White Matter Integrity in Preschool-Aged Children, November 4, 2019

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