There are many positives to having endless information and streaming content at our fingertips. But with littles, it’s definitely possible to have too much of a good thing.
So, how much screen time is too much for a 5-year-old? Keep reading for helpful insight and recommendations for navigating the digital world with young children.
Daily screen time for 5-year-olds
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends no more than an hour of daily screen time for kids 5 and under. You can expand the limit by a half-hour or an hour when your child turns 6 or 7, but for younger kiddos, 60 minutes or less is ideal.
The concern with “too much” screen time
So, what’s the harm in letting your child watch more TV? Statistically speaking, the concern with too much screen time is that it puts kids at a higher risk for obesity, attention problems, sleep issues, and violent tendencies when violent shows or games are on the screen. Additionally, it leaves less time for beneficial activities like reading, art, social interaction, and outdoor play.
Exceptions to screen time limits
While striving for an hour a day is great, going over the limit once in a while isn’t the end of the world. There are many reasonable exceptions, like school closures, plane travel, having friends over, birthdays, and other special occasions. The AAP also makes exceptions at every age for video calling family or friends — that’s always okay.
Also, most movies are more than an hour long. Letting your child watch their favorites on occasion doesn’t mean you’re failing them in any way.
Making the most of screen time
We couldn’t say the same just a decade or two ago, but these days, there’s actually a lot of great content for younger kiddos — even beyond PBS. These types of screen time are beneficial for kids when used in small amounts. Shows and tablet games can be educational while encouraging good behaviors and healthy communication.
They can also help introduce new ideas your child may be resistant to or nervous about, such as flying on an airplane, going to a new school, or welcoming a younger sibling.
According to the AAP, children are easily influenced by everything they see and hear. With this in mind, it’s important to find high-quality content for your kid to watch. Some of the best shows help younger kids learn numbers, letters, words, and songs, while other programs encourage creativity, good manners, and problem-solving skills.
Most cable and streaming services have parental controls that make it easy to block mature content and present your child with only age-appropriate shows. Though you may have to pay a monthly fee, you can also limit the ads your child sees when playing games and watching shows.
Additionally, resources like Common Sense Media rate and review children’s media, then make age-appropriate recommendations with positive messages and educational value.
Yes, there is such a thing as an educational video game. While we don’t recommend getting your 5-year-old a PlayStation, there are some great interactive mobile games for tablets. Your child can match images, identify shapes, find hidden pictures, and learn to count or sound out words. As long as it’s within a reasonable limit, there’s also something to be said about kids developing basic digital skills, like tapping buttons and dragging images on a screen.
Other helpful ideas (beyond time limits)
- Keep screens out of the bedroom always.
- Snacks/meals and screen time are best kept separate.
- Delay social media use for as long as possible — and closely monitor accounts.
- Once homework starts coming home, avoid use of screens (even in the background) while academic work is being done.
- Challenge yourself and other adults in the home to decrease screen use in the presence of children. Young children need responsive interaction, and our responsible use of screens is also very important.
- As always, check in with your pediatrician for recommendations based on your child’s unique needs.
Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team
- Mayo Clinic Staff. Screen time and children: How to guide your child. Mayo Clinic. Healthy Lifestyle. 2022. Web.
- Hill D, et al. Media and Young Minds. Pediatrics. 2016. 138 (5): e20162591. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2016-2591
- American Academy of Pediatrics. Ratings: Making Healthy Media Choices. Pediatric Patient Education.
- American Academy of Pediatrics. Beyond Screen Time: A Parent’s Guide to Media Use. Pediatric Patient Education. 2021. doi.org/10.1542/peo_document099
- Hill D, et al. Media Use in School-Aged Children and Adolescents. Pediatrics. 138 (5): e20162592. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2016-2592
- American Academy of Pediatrics. Media and Children. 2021. Web.
- Auxier B, et al. Children’s engagement with digital devices, screen time. Pew Research Center. 2020. Web.