Children and TV: Limiting your child's screen time

Children and TV often go hand in hand. Understand the effects of too much screen time — and how to enforce reasonable limits. By Mayo Clinic Staff

Are you concerned about how much time your child spends watching TV or movies, playing with a smartphone or computer, or enjoying video games?

Although some screen time can be educational, it's easy to go overboard. Consider this guide to children and TV, including what you can do to keep your child's screen time in check.

The effects of too much screen time

The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages media use by children younger than age 2 and recommends limiting older children's screen time to no more than one or two hours a day. Too much screen time has been linked to:

  • Obesity. The more TV your child watches, the greater his or her risk is of becoming overweight. Having a TV in a child's bedroom also increases this risk. Children can also develop an appetite for junk food promoted in TV ads, as well as overeat while watching TV.
  • Irregular sleep. The more TV children watch, the more likely they are to have trouble falling asleep or to have an irregular sleep schedule. Sleep loss, in turn, can lead to fatigue and increased snacking.
  • Behavioral problems. Elementary students who spend more than two hours a day watching TV or using a computer are more likely to have emotional, social and attention problems. Exposure to video games is also linked with an increased risk of attention problems in children. Watching excessive amounts of TV at age 4 is linked with bullying at ages 6 through 11.
  • Impaired academic performance. Elementary students who have TVs in their bedrooms tend to perform worse on tests than do those who don't have TVs in their bedrooms.
  • Violence. Too much exposure to violence through media — especially on TV — can desensitize children to violence. As a result, children might learn to accept violent behavior as a normal way to solve problems.
  • Less time for play. Excessive screen time leaves less time for active, creative play.
Aug. 16, 2013 See more In-depth