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How much screen time is too much for a 7-year-old?

There are definitely positives to having endless information and streaming content at our fingertips. But with kids, it’s possible to have too much of a good thing.

So, how much screen time is too much for a 7-year-old? Keep reading for useful insight and guidance for navigating the digital world with your child.

Daily screen time for 7-year-olds

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends no more than two hours of daily screen time for kids between 6 and 10, including TV shows, video games, and short video content like YouTube. Recommendations are different for younger children.

The concern with “too much” screen time

Is it really that big a deal to let your kid watch more TV? Going slightly over the limit may not be an issue, but especially when it comes to children under 9, even a little bit of extra screen time puts a child at higher risk for obesity. There are also concerns for sleep issues, violent tendencies when exposed to violent images, and other behavioral issues. What’s more, it leaves less time for reading, games, art, outdoor play, social interaction, and other beneficial activities.

Making rules and setting limits

You can use the AAP’s Family Media Use Plan to create a healthy balance of media use and other activities for different childhood stages. Once you’ve decided how much screen time to allow, you’ll need to communicate the rules to your child. (The AAP’s plan has tips for this too.)

Explain what their daily limit is, when they’re allowed to watch TV or play games (such as only after school), and what they need to do before starting (like finishing their homework or eating dinner). You can set a timer or use built-in parental controls on your TV or tablet to limit the amount of time your child can use a device, as well as which hours of the day they can use it.

If your child has been used to a bit more leeway, the new rules might be met with resistance, grumpiness, or claims of unfairness. But they should adjust to the change before long with consistent use.

Exceptions to screen time limits

Aiming for no more than two hours a day is a good goal. However, there might be exceptions where you allow a little more screen time, like plane travel, sick days, school closures, having friends over, birthdays, and other special occasions. In addition, children who are isolated, chronically ill, or who are looking for a welcoming community (like an LGBTQ+ community) may benefit greatly from access to screens.

When screen time is beneficial

Not all screen time is bad. There’s actually lots of great content for kids these days, including shows and games. High-quality programs can promote healthy communication, encourage interactive learning, and expose your child to current events and social issues in an age-appropriate manner.

They can also introduce new ideas and unfamiliar situations. For instance, watching a show about attending a new school, flying on an airplane, or welcoming a younger sibling can help your kiddo better understand what’s ahead and potentially feel less nervous.

Teaching healthy media behaviors

Your 7-year-old is probably too young for social media, but it’s never too soon to talk to them about age-appropriate content and healthy media behaviors. Discuss what types of things they’re allowed to do (like watch approved shows and play educational games) and what’s not OK (such as online chatting, sharing personal information, and sending pictures of themselves). Monitoring social media accounts is essential.

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. 

Being realistic about the modern world

Your 7-year-old self probably had substantially less access to media. While saving up your money for the latest CD might have been a point of pride, it’s OK to accept that the world your child is growing up in is vastly different than when you were a kid.

Smartphones, tablets, and laptops are becoming standard for school work, and it’s important for kids to be digitally literate. And while it’s good to set limits and monitor the content your child watches, you can still let them enjoy their favorite shows, watch new movies, and participate in age-appropriate pop culture — all within reason, of course.

Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team


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