Why Parents Shouldn’t Worry About Their Kid’s Screen Time

January 4, 2019, 11:31 AM UTC

Kids and their screens: It’s a constant source of worry for parents. Yet pediatricians and researchers in the U.K. say there’s little evidence children’s screen use is harmful in itself.

So, aside from making sure screens don’t replace or impact exercise, sleep or family time, the experts say don’t worry about it. In fact, you don’t even need to set screen time limits.

That said, the review did find associations between higher screen use and obesity and depression, the BBC reports, but it was not clear if higher screen use was causing these problems or if people with these issues were more likely to spend more time on screens.

Rather than setting limits on screen time, the experts suggest you put devices away one hour before bedtime and ask these four very important questions:

  1. Is your family’s screen time under control?
  2. Does screen use interfere with what your family want to do?
  3. Does screen use interfere with sleep?
  4. Are you able to control snacking during screen time?

“We suggest that age-appropriate boundaries are established, negotiated by parent and child, that everyone in the family understands,” Dr. Max Davie of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health told the BBC.

What kids are doing on screens is much more important than how much time they spend with screens, Candice Odgers wrote for Fortune last year. Screen-time guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics suggest parents avoid screen time for children aged 18 to 24 months, with the exception of video calling. For all children, AAP recommends screens be kept out of children’s rooms and turned off for mealtimes.

In the U.S., a $300 million landmark screen time study from the National Institutes of Health is following 11,000 children as they grow up with screens. Preliminary results showed children with more than two hours of screen time a day got lower scores on tests of thinking and language skills.