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Screen Time Guide for Parents

Mother daughter screentime

Screens are everywhere in the modern world. But spending too much time looking at screens can be harmful to your children’s eyes, bodies and minds.

Setting limits regarding screen time can protect your child’s health and help them live a balanced, happy life. There are many tools to limit what types of content your child can access and for how long. Teaching your child how to interact appropriately with digital media will also help them stay safe while living a modern life.

Problems Screens Can Cause

Too much screen time can cause the following eye-related symptoms in children:

  • Fatigue

  • Blurred vision

  • Headaches

  • Dry eyes

  • Eye discomfort

It can also affect children’s physical and mental health in the following ways:

  • Reduced socialization

  • Poor self-esteem

  • Lack of physical activity

  • Weight management problems

  • Mood problems

  • Sleep problems

  • Increased risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and other chronic health problems

  • Shortened attention span

  • Screen addiction

How to Develop Screen Time Rules

Limiting your child’s screen time will improve many aspects of their life. To put boundaries on screen time:

Limiting your child’s screen time will improve many aspects of their life.
  • Pre-screen any media your child will view. Some media are not suitable for children, even with limited exposure.

  • Look for interactive screen time options. Screen time that is spent doing something active, such as creating digital art, practicing basic coding, or playing an educational game, is less harmful than screen time watching videos or television programs.

  • Use parental controls to limit the types of content your child can access as well as how long they can use those electronic devices.

  • Supervise your child as much as possible while they are online.

  • Discuss with your child the media they use. Ask them questions about what they are seeing and offer an outside perspective to help them fully explore the subject matter.

Suggested Screen Time Limits by Age

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following amounts of screen time for children of different ages:

  • Under 18 months: None, except for video calls with an adult present.

  • 18 to 24 months: Only educational content under adult supervision.

  • 2 to 5 years: One hour of non-educational screen time on weekdays and up to three hours on weekends.

  • Over 6 years: Limit specific screen-based activities, such as video games, instead of overall screen time. Encourage an activity that does not involve screen time.

Enforcing Screen Time

There are many tools available to help parents enforce screen time limits and content restrictions for their children.


Apple’s iOS devices come with a built-in Screen Time application you can use to restrict access to age-inappropriate content, set time limits for specific apps, and schedule blackout times during which no apps can be accessed. You can also review how much time your child has been on their device over the past seven days, including which apps they used and for how long.

To use it:

  • Tap the Settings button on your home screen.

  • Tap the Screen Time menu option.

This feature can be secured with a Screen Time passcode so that your child cannot change the settings without your permission.

Although Android phones do not have built-in parental controls, Google Family Linkis a free app that provides similar functionality. It is also available on Apple devices running iOS11 or higher.

This app allows parent accounts to remotely lock their children’s devices, set time limits for each app, and schedule a “bedtime” for child devices to ensure the device cannot be used past that time. It also allows you to view data on your child’s app activity, including daily, weekly, and monthly reports.

To install it:

  1. Open the Settings menu on your child’s device.

  2. Select “Google,” and then “Parental controls.”

  3. Press the “Get started” button.

  4. Select “Child or teen,” then press “Next.”

  5. Select your child’s Google account or create one for them, then press “Next.”

  6. Sign in with your own account, then follow the steps listed on-screen.

Game Consoles

Nintendo offers a free parental control app for the Switch that allows you to set play time limits and restrict when the console can be used. You can also use it to review which games your child has been playing and for how long.

To use it, you will need to pair your smartphone to the Nintendo account you want to manage.

  1. Open the app and sign into your Nintendo account. You will receive a six-digit registration code that you will need to enter on your Switch.

  2. Pick up the Switch and open the System Settings menu from the home screen.

  3. Select “Parental Controls” from the menu on the left.

  4. Select “I have the app installed.”

  5. Enter the registration code you received on your mobile device.

  6. Select “Register” to confirm.

You will then be able to set whatever time or content limits you see fit from the smartphone app.

Playstation’s parental controls also allow you to set restrictions. They also allow you to restrict the use of chat and messaging features, Playstation VR, and the internet browser. To use these features, you will need your own Playstation Network (PSN) account as well as a separate account for each child. Then:

  1. Sign into your PSN account using your web browser or Playstation console.

  2. Navigate to “Account Management,” then “Family Management.”

  3. Select “Add a Child.”

  4. Enter the child’s name and birthday.

  5. Follow the on-screen instructions to set time limits, content restrictions, and other parameters.

Xbox’s parental controls perform most of the same functions. To use them:

  1. Sign into your “Family Safety Account” on,com.

  2. Click on the family member whose screen time you want to restrict.

  3. Select Screen Time

  4. Scroll down to “Xbox consoles” and select “Turn limits on.”

  5. Use the menu to schedule times when use is permitted or to allot a specific number of hours available for use each day.


Many smart TVs have built-in parental control systems, but most only offer content restriction features without the ability to set limits for screen time.

Google products are the exception. Google TVs and Google Chromecast devices both offer children’s profiles with the ability to limit screen time.

You will be prompted to set screen-time limits and other parameters during the profile set-up process when creating a children’s profile. You can then change these parameters at any time using the account’s “Settings” menu.


The process for setting up computer screen-time limitations depends on which operating system (OS) your child’s computer is running on.

Microsoft’s parental controls for Windows 10 and above are run using the same Microsoft Family Safety system Xbox devices use. To set them up:

  1. Follow the instructions for Xbox controls listed above up to step 3.

  2. Select “Windows 10 devices” and select “Turn limits on.”

  3. Schedule times for computer use as needed.

Apple’s parental controls for MacOS Catalina and above also offer content blocking in addition to time limit features. To set them up:

  1. Have your child sign into their user account on their Macintosh computer.

  2. Click on the Apple menu, then select “System Preferences,” then “Screen Time.”

  3. Set up downtime hours, screen time limits, content limits, and more according to your needs.

  4. Click on the “Options” button in the lower-left corner.

  5. Select “Use Screen Time Passcode” and secure the Screen Time menu so that only you can access it.

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