The latest generation of children has grown up with smartphones, TVs, and tablets as part of their daily lives. But this newly digitized lifestyle has scientists now examining how it might be affecting a child’s brain or development. So, what are the effects of screen time for kids?

Effects of Screen Time for Kids

The truth is, we aren’t sure. Early results from a National Institute of Health study seem to show that longer screen time for children is correlated with lower scores on some aptitude tests and even some early brain changes. (Early signs of cortical thinning—the brain’s gray matter gets compressed—may occur earlier in young iPad junkies.)

It is important to know, however, that the early results are mixed and not yet conclusive. You may want to toss your TV—just on general principles—but, there’s a lot more work to be done before we accurately can predict how screen time affects sensitive little brains.

Recommended Screen Time for Kids

Here are the American Academy of Pediatrics' screen time recommendations for children:

  • Under the age of 18 months, skip screen time and opt for IRL playtime with parents, siblings, pets, toys and the outdoors. 
  • Children over 18-months can have a bit of screen time, preferably non-violent nature shows and responsibly produced programming like Sesame Street. 
  • From 2 to 5 years, the AAP recommends no more than 1 hour a day of high-quality, responsibly produced, non-violent content like Sesame Street, nature shows, or PBS kids programs.
  • Kids 6 and up, should stick to no more than 2 hours a day.

Screen Time for Kids: The Bottomline 

What scientists have definitely proven is that speaking with children is very nourishing to developing brains. So, whenever you can, watch the program with your child and use it as an opportunity to enrich the experience with a few questions and a bit of discussion.

About Dr. Harvey Karp

Dr. Harvey Karp, one of America’s most trusted pediatricians, is the founder of Happiest Baby and the inventor of the groundbreaking SNOO Smart Sleeper. After years of treating patients in Los Angeles, Dr. Karp vaulted to global prominence with the release of the bestselling Happiest Baby on the Block and Happiest Toddler on the Block. His celebrated books and videos have since become standard pediatric practice, translated into more than 20 languages and have helped millions of parents. Dr. Karp’s landmark methods, including the 5 S’s for soothing babies, guide parents to understand and nurture their children and relieve stressful issues, like new-parent exhaustion, infant crying, and toddler tantrums.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.