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Just how much screen time is ok for my child?

Technology is very much a part of our everyday lives. Recent research by Uswitch found that the average screen time among UK adults is now 5 hours per day – an increase of 2 hours a day since 2020.

This doesn’t sound too much until you realise that the 5 hours is over and above any screen related work! So what exactly is meant by screen time?

Screen time refers to time spent on any screen – TV, desktop computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone.

The Uswitch research found that around half of UK adults spend 3-4 hours watching TV per day and around 2 hours a day on social media, including Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and Tiktok. 

But what about the situation with screen time for children?

This issue hit the headlines recently with James Kitto – the UK boss of Samsung Mobile – saying he did not give his daughter a smartphone until she was 11. This sparked debate as it very much goes against current trends. A study by research firm Childwise found that around 74% of 9-10-year-olds have access to a mobile phone : 60% owning a mobile phone, and 14% using a family member’s or friend’s.

So, if children have access to screens, including mobile phones and other devices, how much time should they be spending on them?

Let’s take a look at:

  • Recommended screen times for children.
  • The risks of too much screen time.
  • How to manage your child’s screen time.


Recommended screen times for children

The amount of screen time for children obviously varies with their age. But here are some guidelines from a variety of health experts:

  • Children under 2

The recommendation here is very limited screen time, and only when an adult is there to watch with them and to talk to them about it. Children having screen time on their own at this age is discouraged.

  • Children aged 2 to 5

A good guideline here is around 1 hour per day, and it is still recommended that adults should watch with their child, and ensure that what they are watching is interactive, educational and non-violent.

  • Children aged 5 to 8

At this age, there is no set guideline as it depends very much on the child’s stage of development and the family preferences. However, it’s important that parents continue to monitor their child’s media usage to check that it’s safe and healthy for them to view and is not interfering with other aspects of their life such as sleep and exercise. 

  • Children aged 9+

Screen time limits can be increased from this age upwards, but it’s still important to have conversations with your children about how they are using screen time, what they’re viewing and what they’re learning from it. It shouldn’t be a limitless resource, as there can be risks of too much screen time.

Let’s take a look . . .


The risks of too much screen time

Recent research has discovered that too much screen time early in life could lead to cognitive issues later in childhood. The main reason for this is that screen time can expose children to information intended for the more developed brains of older children and adults. Trying to process such information at an early age can affect the development of sensory pathways of the brain.

There are also other potential impacts of too much screen time on children’s health:

  • Less active time: children get used to using a screen rather than doing something active;
  • Less fresh air: if children are not being active they are likely to spend less time outdoors;
  • Weight gain: the lack of activity can lead to a gain in weight and risk of obesity;
  • Sleep problems: using devices too near to bedtime can disrupt sleep patterns.
  • Poor school performance: too much screen time can lead to less concentration at school.

However, there are also benefits of screen time. It can be a great family bonding time, and can also be a source of entertainment, information and education. So how can you manage your child’s screen time to reap the benefits but avoid the risks?


How to manage your child’s screen time

As with any area of family life, the best way to manage screen time is to have regular and open conversations. Make it clear to your child the amount of time you are prepared to let them spend on devices and the kind of resources and media you are happy for them to engage with. Explain the reasoning behind your decision and emphasise the positives.

It is also important to make sure that the devices you are using are completely up to date with security features, and use parental controls in order to restrict material that you do not want your child to see. If you have older children, it may be worth investing in a new device for them that can incorporate all these features from the start.

Where possible, try and spend some time engaging with your child on screen time. For example, by watching something together and discussing it, playing a game together, or helping your child with some research. Balance these times with non screen time activities, both inside the home or elsewhere so that you are having fun together totally away from all screens.

And one of the key ways to manage your child’s screen time is to model screen time usage yourself. Your child will learn from you. If you are always on your phone or another device, even during family time, they will expect to do likewise and will be rebellious if you say no. So, you also need to make a determined effort to reduce your own screen time in the company of your children, and give them priority when you are together.


We hope that this article helps you to decide how much screen time is best for your child, and decide how to manage that. And if you decide that it’s time to upgrade one of your devices, remember that Munzee offers online loans that may be able to help.

Check back here soon for more lifestyle and financial tips from Munzee Loans.