How Much Screen Time Do You Let Your Kids Have?

I’m sure we all want our kids to spend less time in front of a screen. Be it a phone, a TV, a tablet, a computer game, a kindle…and no doubt the list will grow as advances in technology are made. It seems that the days of climbing trees and playing hopscotch are slowly being overshadowed by time spent glued to a screen. But is this always a bad thing?

How much screen time do you let your kids have? How much would you like them to have?

Photography by Little Beanies

The loves of Lisa’s life are Rich and their kids, Lyra and Jenson. Although she does wish they would let her have a shower in peace every once in a while.

24 Comments. Leave new

More than I would like but not as much as they would like! I have 3 five and under and it’s a necessity when I’m cooking dinner or when we all need a bit of down time! The big two (5 and almost 4) have kindle fire tablets and are pretty good at self managing the time on those. The timer option helps with that too. The tv is a different matter though and given the choice they’d happily while away a day sat in front of it! It’s also the source of many arguments as finding something they agree on to watch is proving tricky! We have a chart on the wall of things we can do instead and I direct them to that when I can see their eyes turning square! We’re currently debating the whole gaming business for Xmas presents for our oldest boy- I’m quite happy that he’s not interested in it all at the moment and would prefer to whizz around on his scooter outside but likewise I don’t want him to end up left behind if his peers are all gaming up a storm! Screen time is one of the many tricky balances isn’t it!!?

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This is so emotive!! I think everyone has to come to their own balance point and this is mine- i always feel super uncomfortable as if I’m being judgy when this is discussed but I’m not!!!

The rule here is no screen before 4:15. Unless someone is ill, or the weather is ridiculously awful. I just find it best for me- we do everything else and then she has an hour and a half ish with it on while she plays and I make tea. CBeebies isn’t too annoying at that time either! I cannot bear the pig and her ilk, so we don’t watch. And not having Sky we don’t have Paw Patrol.

Very occasionally we watch wildlife on YouTube on my phone- there’s a great mini series by the BBC with the woman from Do You Know? On it. And the CBeebies story time app is great for planes.

But that’s it. And I’m happy with that.

My brother told me the nursery his colleagues child goes to doesn’t allow branded or TV characters on their clothes ehich I thought was interesting!

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That wildlife mini series sounds perfect for my toddler, could you share a link please?
He currently loves Hey Duggee which is fine by me as it’s only five minutes, and I secretly like it too ☺️

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Ahh such an emotive question and we all feel the mum guilt! We are trying to find our feet with this at the mo as have an 18 month old and another due in December… I am writing this as my son is watching Iggle Piggle and crew 🙈 We tend to try and limit it to short bursts when we need to get stuff done/ he needs to unwind/ he wakes so bloomin early and we need an extra half hr in bed. I feel if the day is balanced out with playing outdoors/ stories/ classes/ playing at home etc then half an hr/ an hr can’t be the worst thing in the world… right??

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Oh way too much and I feel crap whenever I think about it. I’ve not put on cbeebies at all during my rapidly diminishing mat leave. O has watched way too much BBC breakfast, homes under the hammer, law & order and money for nothing.

We’ve just introduced maid Marian and her merry men, fireman Sam and Thomas the tank engine (Ringo Starr) on the iPad. It’s so cute to see her wiggling to the theme tunes. She wiggles to all music although I do question my parenting skills when she wiggles to Rihanna wild thoughts!

Most of the time Of is playing with her toys quite happily when it’s on and the background noise gets rid of the crushing silence when we’re home alone.

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Oh this is so relevant and something I feel constantly guilty about. We were fairly successful at minimising it, and I massively see a link between bad behaviour and too much Tv but I currently have an 8 week old and so my 2 year old gets waaaay too much screen time. Usually a bit in the morning after breakfast whilst I try and get us out of the house, then a bit before tea. When I’m stuck in the car/on a bench feeding I give him my phone to watch fireman Sam on YouTube and unfortunately bedtime has incorporated a bit of iPad so I can get the baby down after bath time and give him some one on one time. Eek it sounds so much when I write it down, but I do take him out for the majority of the day and most of our time is outdoors playing, we read lots of books, crafts etc but he’s so young himself sometimes I need to just get on/deal with the newborn and the screen is all that will keep him quiet and happy!

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My 22 month old has a bit of CBeebies in the morning while we get breakfast ready and in the evening while dinner prep is going on but then the rule is no tv until after dinner is eaten which usually means only the second half of In the Night Garden (whoever wrote that was on some STRONG stuff!!! God they love it though don’t they?) and the story. Never on in the day unless ill/ bad weather. If he drifts off from watching it (which happens a lot) I just turn it off! But he has been known to arirve home and start crying “Beebies, Beebies”!! eeek!

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My husband and I argue a bit about this. We both tell off the other for allowing screen time – but we both do it. We try and stick to 20 minutes while I’m running around after breakfast trying to get out the door then probably from about 4.30pm when I get their tea on. But honestly they are a nightmare if we are home they want the TV on in parallel with playing and I do give in when I’m busy. And I feel guilty!! At the weekends I like to be out of the house all day keeping them active so they are never watching ALL day.
Anyone else’s 5 years olds adore Strictly?? It’s become a Saturday evening treat and she just gets so excited. X

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And phones is a whole other ball game. We have to hide them or they want them all the time. It’s so sad really 🙁

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Firstly, shall we define screen time? Is it TV or Ipad too?

TV, we only watch Cbeebies but she NEEDS down time as much as I do and it was a lifesaver with a newborn in the depths of winter. I’m an advocate – those children I know whose parents are a bit gung-ho about the lack of TV tend to be those who are over stimulated and struggle with independent time. We watch Alphablocks, Go Jetters, Numberblocks and the Octonauts. Maybe Andy’s pre-historic adventures. They’re all educational. I’m not going to beat myself up about it. She could read before she turned three so its not harmed her in any way.

Ipad wise, we’re a huge fan of the “Endless” series. Alphabet and Numbers. She uses it a lot in the car. Phonics Play (the rocket/space one). Would welcome other app suggestions.

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We’re lucky in that our tv isn’t in the same room as all the toys – we have an open plan kitchen / playroom. Tv is only in the sitting room. So my two yr old never really sees the tv, not that the sitting room is out of bounds we just don’t use it much. We have recorded from last Christmas We’re going on a bear hunt, Gruffalo, Gruffalo child so occasionally maybe twice a week he’ll watch one of those, I say watch, he only manages to sit still for about 7 minutes! So I’m glad he’s not tv obsessed. The 6 month old loves it tho! Phones / iPads occasionally I’ll put a tractor YouTube vid on. He’s more into watching instastories 🙈🙈🙈 so I try very hard not to use my phone when he’s around. Easier said than done!

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On the flip side, I am consciously trying to get my 2 year old into TV! He will only sit and watch for a few minutes at a time – seeing tales on here of restricting to 20 minutes is making me green with envy! I think we’ve only made it to the end of Peppa Pig a couple of times.

I’m worrying that his lack of attention span for TV means something terrible about his development, but this probably says more about me than him – I can’t worry about him watching too much, I will worry about him watching too little! Sigh.

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We have some rules around TV watching, but on the whole our three year old isn’t too bad. No TV allowed on weekday mornings, she gets something on youtube on my phone while I do her (very long and curly) hair. She is allowed to watch in the mornings at weekends. Then she can watch something while I get the dinner ready – after a busy day at nursery, she is so tired, I don’t think an hour of cbeebies is a bad thing!!!
Yes Nikki, we have a big Strictly fan – like you said, it’s now a Saturday evening treat, but we watch it as a family, and I think that’s a positive side of screen time – I think it’s not great if a child watches hours and hours on their own, but we’ll watch Strictly or movies all together as a family, and I think if you’re all engaged/interacting then that’s only a good thing! She’s currently learning to recognize numbers, so loves the scores on Strictly!!! Also this weekend we watched Inside Out, so that then prompted chat at the dinner table about emotions, etc.
She almost exclusively watches on catch up so she can choose the programmes that she likes best … on cbeebies that’s fine, but she also likes Milkshake, and even on the catch up the adverts are really starting to annoy me!!!!! They seem to have increased in number dramatically recently!!!

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We learnt the painful way with my three year old the downside of too much TV. I gave birth to my second in July and we got in the habit of daddy getting up with P at 7.30am, watching a Disney film while I went back to bed for an hour with the baby. P turned into a total TV zombie, her behaviour and mood after the film finished was awful so we stopped cold turkey. It’s harder work for us as we have really play with her or read with her so the TV was a great babysitter, but the payback wasn’t worth it. She now watches a Disney film maybe once a week, and an episode of Thomas the Tank once a day after tea. We never gave CBeebies on as I can’t stand it, but if I have background tv on with the usual round of quiz shows she’s always asking ‘have they won’.

iPad is restricted to a couple of apps but we only let her on maybe once a month because otherwise the iPad zombie appears too! I’m terrified of the impact of tablets and phones. I know my concentration has been ruined by them and I’m usually on the tablet whilst watching tv, not fully taking in either, so I dread to think the long term effects on their developing brains.

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Completely agree and I’m similar with my girls. Their behaviour has been completely different in a good way since I massively reduced screen time to very occasional. I didn’t realise how much they used it until I stopped. Like you I’m worried about the impact too much tablet and tv will have (although it will be completely a way of life by the time they grow up) I’ve noticed my concentration is appalling these days and also find I get more done with them playing rather than watching.
Now to combat my own screen time. I’m terrible with my phone as it’s work and social. Xxx

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We have a just turned 2YO and an 8 week old baby & both haven’t ever seen the TV/IPad etc, the 2YO doesn’t know who Pepper Pig is & she thinks remote controls in friends’ houses are telephones “Hello Daddy”. We’re not quite sure how we ended up at 2 years without any TV & again not sure how long we’ll continue with it. I do know it started initially with a conscious decision for her not to have any screen time before she was one & I suppose subsequent to that first birthday, we just never find the moment/need to put it on. I also witness lots of friends’ children who will ask to watch TV/iPad when we are over to play & that sort of thing definitely doesn’t encourage me to allow it in our house too soon.

My gut instinct is that I suspect by the time she starts school there will have been some TV, I like the idea of a Christmas movie & some Disney classics too. But when that’ll happen, I just don’t know? For the time being, we remain happy with our decision.

Of course, the ‘guilt’ & judgement goes both ways too – the looks I receive from other mums/friends /grandparents when I say I don’t allow TV – you might think I’ve just told them that I don’t cuddle my children! Some look completely horrified & say things immediately like “But what about their friends & what about when they go to school?”….

I suppose we all just have to be happy with our own decisions & try to find our own right way, whichever way that may be. An interesting topic though – made me wonder how many other ‘no TV’ families there are out there?

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I didn’t see your comment until I wrote mine! Very well written, and lots of it mimics our life completely including the age gap between children and no screen time at all before 2. Absolutely agree about the looks of horror too – so funny! My daughter calls Peppa “That funny pig” when she sees it on children’s clothes and I’m sure people think she’s a bit stupid not remembering her name but she genuinely doesn’t know it! x

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We’re in a strange position of accidentally not owning a TV! We’d always had one, but it broke during house move and our first baby arrived 12 days later…somehow we never missed it so didn’t bother getting one! She’s almost 3 now with a baby sibling and watches occasional Gruffalo/Stick Man (recorded from Christmas) at Grandparents house. She’s also watched highlights of sporting events – London marathon, Tour de France and Gymnastics, all of which she really enjoyed and it was fun to engage in conversation with her about them. Whilst lack of screen time was initially accidental, we have asked for grandparents to avoid the branded characters of peppa pig etc, so we have influenced that – I guess I’d just rather she found fun in a character from a book or imagination than TV at such a young age. No particular reason why, other than personal preference I guess! We’ve never watched a huge amount of TV ourselves so I think that plays a huge part, as it’s just not a top priority at all.
We have an iPad and when she was poorly on holiday, she did watch a few of the bedtime stories although lost interest when “The Bear who went Boo” disappeared off the episode list.
I absolutely understand the need for rest/down time/independent play and are lucky that our daughter will do this of her own accord with a book. It’s never really been an issue so far, but as she gets older, we may invest in a TV as I wouldn’t like her to feel she is missing out versus her peers. Interestingly, she did recently comment “We don’t have a TV” out of the blue, to which I answered “we do lots of other fun things though, don’t we? Would you like to have a TV at our house?” But she’d moved on to something else so at this stage, it seemed more of an observation than a complaint! It’ll be interesting to see how things adapt for our family as she gets older and her sibling also gets a say…who knows what their future screen time will be! Especially once outside influences of preschool etc take effect. Time will tell!

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As a follow up I’d love an article about alternatives to tv- for down time but also to entertain toddlers when you’re busy with a newborn! I’m so envious of those who have minimal screen time and would love some ideas!

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Books, stickers, drawing, the dreaded playdoh, duplo are all the relatively quiet things my just turned two year old loves. More noisy is lining up every single tractor and car he has (takes a while!)

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Oh, also jigsaws are great!

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Really interesting comments. We do allow some TV and youtube on the tablet in our bed when wake ups are very early. We haven’t really needed to limit it yet as she is not that bothered, she will ask to watch it if she is very tired after nursery but then generally gets up and starts playing once she has rested a bit.I suppose the only conscious limitations I put in place are that I always turn it off once she is back to playing so that it’s not distracting from other games. Would also be interested on some other down time ideas, we read a lot of books but she tends to enjoy those more when she is not so tired.

Xxx

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We have found that our 23month olds behaviour is noticeably worse the more screen time she has. And the tantrum when the tv is turned off!!!! (I limit it depending on situation to 30mins max and we only really waych a few different kids programs.) means I’m less and less likely to turn the tv on at all.
We are fortunate that we have a small table in the kitchen so whilst I make dinner she can sit and craft/do play-dough. Or my other trick is send her pack and forth to the toy box to get me things I ‘need’ to make dinner and set her up a little cook station on a chair by the kitchen door to help.

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The ultimate debate question! I really struggle with this one as screen time has such negative connotations and yet I often enjoy watching a good TV show myself so it’s hard not to feel like a hypocrite. My daughter is just about to turn two and we’ve had minimal tv time so far. Just recently it’s been an episode of Peppa once or twice a week but earlier in the year we introduced it, saw a downslide in behaviour and cut it out completely again. I’m sure we’ll gradually introduce a bit more but I prefer to watch it as a family. TV always seems easy compared to other screens though as you can leave it in the house. My daughter doesn’t use the tablet at all and occasionally we’ll look at animal pictures or videos on the laptop, but phones are going to be a real divider I think. I try not to use mine around my daughter at all. Biggest tantrums are always phone related and she knows she can look at ‘photos photos!’ on them, which as soon as she sees one is all she wants to do. But I regularly see my husband on his phone in front of her and I really wish he wouldn’t! I feel like they’re the worst screens of all as so many people are phone-addicted and I have to put mine well out of sight to avoid the temptation to check… [And as a caveat to all of the above, I think more than one child is a game-changer. I’m so conscious that with just one child at the moment, making decisions such as ‘no tv yet’ was much much easier than if I’d needed to focus on another child.]

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