AAP's Guidelines for Screentime for Kids

kids watching tv

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers parents specific guidelines for managing children's screen time. Previous guidelines discouraged screen time for children under age 2 and recommended limiting “screen time” to two hours a day for children over age 2. These old guidelines were drafted prior to the explosion of devices and apps aimed at young children.

According to research, 36% of American children under age 1 have interacted with a mobile device.

Meanwhile, 95% of teens have access to a smartphone; 45% of teens say they are online almost all the time.

With the change in how media impacts our children, the AAP came out with new, more relaxed screen time guidelines.

Here Are the New AAP Screen Time Guidelines:

Get Involved With Media

Media is just another environment in which kids play. The same parenting rules apply. Continue to engage your children in both their real and virtual environments. Play with your kids and set limits. Kids thrive with boundaries and limits. Get to know who your kids are playing with online as your would in person.

Be a good role model

Limit your own media use, and model this behavior for your children. Attentive parenting requires you to spend quality time with your kids away from screens.

Language is critical for development

Neuroscience research shows that very young children learn best via two-way communication. Talking to your child is critical for their language development. Passive video presentations do not lead to language learning in infants and young toddlers. Educational media opportunities begin after age 2, when media may play a role in bridging the learning achievement gap.

Content matters

The quality of content is more important than the platform or time spent with media. Prioritize how your child spends his time rather than just setting a timer.

Research the apps

As of 2015, there were more than 80,000 apps in the Apple store labeled educational (with more having been added regularly), but there is little research validating this label. An educational and interactive app requires more than swiping to teach your child. Look to organizations like Common Sense Media that review age-appropriate apps, games and programs.

Co-engagement is important

Create family time. Get your whole family involved in media together to facilitate social interactions and learning. If you and your kid love video games, play it together! Your perspective influences how your children understand their media experience. For infants and toddlers, viewing media together is essential.

Playtime is important

Unstructured playtime stimulates creativity. Make sure you schedule in media-less playtime, especially for the very young.

Set limits

Set limits on the amount of media use in your home. Ask yourself whether your child’s technology use help or hinder participation in other activities? Homework? Socialization?

Let your teenager go online

Research shows that cultivating online relationships can have both a positive and negative impact on adolescent development. Social media can support identity formation, but teach your teenager appropriate behaviors for online and in-person relationships. Ask your teen to show you what they are doing online and be open to learning from them.

Create media-free times & areas in your home

It is important to preserve family time. Make meals or bedtime routine media-free. These limits encourage family time, healthier eating habits and healthier sleep.

Let your kid make mistakes

As your child learns about media, they are bound to make mistakes. Use these mistakes as teachable moments, handled with empathy instead of times for punishment. If your child is engaged in risky behavior, such as sexting or posting self-harm images, this is a signal that something else is wrong and your child may need professional help.

4 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Kemp C. Babies as young as 6 months using mobile media. AAP News. 2015; 36(10). doi:10.1542/aapnews.20150425-3

  2. Pew Resaerch Center. Teens, Social Media & Technology 2018.

  3. Hirsh-pasek K, Zosh J, Golinkoff R, Gray J, Robb M, Kaufman J. Putting education in "educational" apps: lessons from the science of learning. Psychol Sci Public Interest. 2015;16(1):3-34. doi:10.1177%2F1529100615569721

  4. Pantic I. Online social networking and mental health. Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw. 2014;17(10):652-7. doi:10.1089%2Fcyber.2014.0070

By Jill Ceder, LMSW, JD
Jill Ceder, LMSW, JD is a psychotherapist working with women, children, adolescents, couples and families.