What Exactly Does Two Hours of Screen Time Mean?

Two hours of screen time

Your child spends 2-4 hours a day at school “staring at a screen” and is expected to use a screen to complete homework assignments – and then the American Academy of Pediatrics warns that no one at any age should have more than 2 hours of screen time any day!

You’re wondering, “How can this warning even be implemented? My 1st grader is on a screen for more than 2 hours at school!”

Alzein Pediatrics is here to explain  – and help you manage time limits when necessary.

First, there are two different kinds of screen time, non-recreational and recreational.

Non-recreational screen time is time spent on a computer, tablet, phone or television that has an educational or activity based component. Non-recreational screen time promotes learning, creativity, curiosity, exercise and movement. This is positive screen time and the AAP (and Alzein Pediatrics) warnings do not apply to this time. School and homework screen time helps our children solve math problems, compose essays, research science facts, create art, and learn about different countries and cultures.

Your child’s after-school and after-homework screen time can be non-recreational. Your child can play learning games at PBSKids.org, kids.NationalGeographic.com or ABCYa.com. Look for art and music apps to help your child draw, paint, compose and perform. Become Geocachers, a community which finds and hides “treasures” using GPS, teaching your child directions, geography and mapping, and getting you both moving outside and spending time together.

Recreational screen time does not promote activity or real education – and this is the “screen time” that the AAP and other experts are concerned about. This is the screen time that is re-wiring our children’s brains and causing impaired cognitive development, obesity, behavioral problems, academic problems, sleep deprivation, depression and mood swings. Recreational screen time is what parents need to monitor and limit.

This type of screen time includes any social media usage, most movies and TV shows, most video or computer games – anything that is not beneficial to their education or physical activity. Typically, your child will be sitting or lying down during recreational usage.

The AAP recommends adhering to these limits, according to age:

  • Under 18 months – No screen time at all except for video-chatting.
  • 18 months to 5 years – One hour per day of non-recreational screen time, co-viewing high-quality programs and games with parents to help children make sense of the media and how it applies to their world.
  • Over 5 years – No more than two hours per day of recreational screen time.

Ways to manage recreational screen time include:

  • Model good screen behavior and encourage family game nights and physical games.
  • Keep bedrooms screen-free zones.
  • Set firm limits and apply consistently to both children and parents.
  • Spend your recreational screen time together by playing video games or watching movies with your kids.
  • When your child is using screens to complete homework, make it clear they are not to check social media or play games in another window or device.

Even when nearly 100% of your child’s screen time is non-recreational, make sure your child is physically moving and getting outside – away from screens entirely – at least one hour every day. Kids who play outdoors:

  • Are healthier and stronger overall, with better immune systems
  • Have stronger cognitive, social and emotional skills
  • Have longer and more focused attention spans
  • Have sharper sensory skills, like smell, vision, touch and hearing
  • Are happier overall

Do you still have questions about screen time, or need help breaking your child of a screen time addiction? Just click here or call 708-424-7600 to make an appointment. Alzein Pediatrics is happy to help your family manage media in a healthy, beneficial way!

About the Author
Newsletter Icon
Get Our E-Newsletter