Screen Time


What’s wrong with screens?

On their own? Nothing!  In fact, many people find enjoyment in passing time with screens (e.g., TV shows) or building connections with others (e.g., video calls with family members). The problem comes up when the child isn’t doing activities that are expected of them (e.g, learning, time with family and friends) or developing other hobbies due to excessive screen time.  It also becomes a problem if screen time negatively affects the way children think (e.g., their attention, statements they make about themselves), the way they feel (e.g., their mood), and their behavior (e.g., imitating inappropriate behaviors they see during screen time, throwing tantrums if they don’t get screen time). Excessive screen time can become an issue for people of all ages, including children and adults!

What is appropriate screen use?

Screen time can be appropriate when it’s focused on learning (e.g., academic enrichment websites), joint entertainment (e.g., watching a movie together as a family), or connecting with others (e.g., playing an online multiplayer videogame, messaging friends). However, even these activities can become a problem if there aren’t clear expectations about when, where, and how long children can engage in screen time. 

When should you be concerned about screen use?

Here are some signs to look out for:

  • Child has difficulty ending screen time: The child has difficulty stopping screen time and consistently asks to continue.  This is particularly true if you have already set clear expectations ahead of time and/or they have already spent a significant amount of time engaged with the activity. 
  • Child’s emotions are impacted by screen time: Some children, especially tweens and adolescents, may use screens to regulate their emotions (e.g., needing screen time to “cheer up”), which can contribute to long-term emotional challenges.  They may also regularly become emotional when on a screen (e.g., they get really upset and it’s difficult to soothe them).
  • Child spends less time on other activities: The child is spending limited or decreasing amounts of time with their friends/family or engaging in beneficial activities (e.g., sports, reading).