What is Screen Time?

Dana Hinders

Between e-mail, instant messaging, video games, and television, electronic media has infiltrated almost every aspect of our daily lives. However, the impact of all this time in front of a screen is not entirely positive. While some media exposure can be useful and informative, too much screen time takes away from other activities. It should come as no surprise that pastimes such as reading for pleasure, playing board games, and volunteering within the community have been on a steady decline in recent years. In addition, many experts believe the amount of time on the computer a person spends in a typical day is a significant risk factor for obesity-related health problems.

One study shows children spend less time on homework than screen time.
One study shows children spend less time on homework than screen time.

Screen time becomes a particularly important issue when discussing children's use of media. Pediatricians and child development experts now recommend children's screen time be limited to no more than two hours per day. This includes television as well as video games and non-school related computer usage. Parents of children under the age of two are generally encouraged to allow no screen time at all.

Limiting the time that a child watches television will reduce screen time.
Limiting the time that a child watches television will reduce screen time.

Unfortunately, it appears that this recommendation is not followed in most families. One recent study found that children between the ages of eight and 18 spend nearly 45 hours per week watching television, playing video games, and surfing the Web. This is more time than they spend doing homework, talking with their parents, exercising, or reading for pleasure. To further compound the problem, much of the electronic media that makes up children's screen time is filled with violent and/or sexually inappropriate content. Even babies are not immune to the effects of media exposure; the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 61% of children age one year or younger watch screen media in a typical day.

What can busy parents do to address the issue of too much screen time for children? The most common recommendation is to not allow televisions and computers in your child's bedroom. Keeping electronic media in central areas of the house makes it easier for you to set limits regarding appropriate usage. Avoid using television, video games, and computer time as a reward for good behavior. Provide plenty of other recreational activities for your child to enjoy and strive to set a good example for your children with regards to your own media usage.

Making media consumption a family activity is another way to reduce the potentially harmful effects of screen time. This is especially important for teenagers, since you'll want to take any opportunity available to discuss your family's expectations regarding drugs, alcohol, and sexual relationships.

Screen time includes time spent playing computer or video games.
Screen time includes time spent playing computer or video games.
Dana Hinders
Dana Hinders

Dana holds a B.A. in journalism and mass communication from the University of Iowa. She has loved being part of the EasyTechJunkie team ever since discovering the joys of freelance writing after her son was born. Dana also hones her writing skills by contributing articles to various blogs, as well as creating sales copy and content for e-courses.

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Discussion Comments


It bothers me how much time my boyfriend spends staring at his laptop screen. It seems that he is always either on social networking sites or reading about something that doesn’t interest me one bit.

I think that the internet has caused the decline of romance. How many girls have been disappointed when they were out on a date and their guys were constantly checking their phones for emails or updates? I know that I have.

Screen time is truly addictive to some people. I seriously cannot tolerate it much longer, and even though my boyfriend knows this, he doesn’t reduce his screen time one bit for me.


I grew up on a farm, so I hardly got any screen time. It didn’t bother me, but my own kids really rely on computers and TV for entertainment, and that troubles me.

My daughter whined so much when I tried to get her to get off her computer and come outside with me that I just gave up. Then, I came up with an idea.

I unplugged the computer, and when she tried to turn it on, she saw that the screen stayed black. I attached a note to the cord that said she had to earn screen time by doing work in the garden.

She screamed and put up quite a fight, but I told her that was the only way she could use her computer again. It worked, and now, I even think she enjoys gardening, though she might never admit it.


@Oceana - You’re lucky you got to play that much! My parents only let me play for an hour a day, and I really couldn’t get anywhere in the game because of that.

I had several games that would not allow me to save my progress. This was so frustrating, because I couldn’t get to the higher levels in just an hour.

Once I got my dad to try them out, he became hooked, and he saw how long it took to get anywhere. After that, he let me play for longer when my mother wasn’t looking.

She caught on after awhile, and then she started making me read a book for as long as I spent on video games each day. I also had the option to go outside and play for the same length of time, but every hour spent gaming had to be counterbalanced with some other activity.


I remember when my parents used to control my screen time. It really wasn’t an issue for me until I got a video game system.

I had always loved playing outdoors, but once I discovered the world of video games, I was hooked. I just couldn’t seem to stop!

My parents kept the system in the living room so that I couldn’t sneak around and play without their permission. They knew that allowing me to keep it in my bedroom might result in a loss of sleep.

They allowed me to play for two hours a day. This may have been more time than most parents allowed their kids, but I told them that in order to advance in the game, you had to spend a lot of time playing.

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