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Screen Time Guidelines for Babies and Toddlers

Most of a baby's brain development happens in the first 2 years of life. That's why it's so important for babies and toddlers to explore their environment and experience many sights, sounds, tastes, and textures. Interacting and playing with others helps children learn about the world around them.

For that reason, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends limiting the amount of time that babies and toddlers spend in front of a screen. That's good advice — but in today's world, it can be tough to keep babies and toddlers away from all the TVs, tablets, computers, smartphones, and gaming systems they'll see.

Let's face it: Screens are everywhere. Your little one is probably going to spend some time looking at one, so make sure his or her screen time is as productive as possible.

How Much Is Too Much?

Babies younger than 18 months should have no screen time at all. The exception to this rule is video chatting with grandparents or other family friends, which is considered quality time interacting with others.

Toddlers 18 months to 24 months old can start to enjoy some screen time with a parent or caregiver. By ages 2 and 3, kids should watch no more than 1 hour a day. 

But not all screen time is created equal. For example, you and your baby playing an interactive color or shape game on a tablet or watching high-quality educational programming together is good screen time. Plopping your toddler down in front of the TV to watch your favorite shows with you is an example of bad screen time.

Use screen time as a chance to interact with your child and teach lessons about the world. Don't let your child spend time alone just staring at a screen.

Screen Time Tips

The same parenting rules apply to screen time as to anything else — set a good example, establish limits, and talk with your child about it.

To make your toddler's screen time more productive:

  • Be with young kids during screen time and interact with them. That can mean playing an educational game with your child or talking about something you see together in an age-appropriate TV show or video.
  • Research games and apps before getting them for your child. There are thousands of apps and games that claim to be educational, but not all of them are. Search online to see which ones educators and doctors consider the best.
  • Schedule plenty of non-screen time into your child's day. Unstructured playtime is important for building creativity, so young children should have time to play away from screens every day. Family meals and bedtimes are also important times to put the screens away and interact with your child. 

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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