How Much Screen Time Is Too Much?

Nowadays, screens are a fixture in our lives from a young age. While technology offers great potential in terms of your child’s learning skills and development, a certain amount of constraint isn’t always a terrible idea. Read this article for more information on how to manage screen time.

Recommended Screen Time by Age

With so much information available on screen time, it can often be hard to work out how much is best for your child. While there are no official UK guidelines on screen time, the WHO recommends the following for children under 4 years old:

Infants and 1-year-olds

Sedentary screen time is not recommended (watching TV or videos, playing computer games). Under the age of 4 to 5 months, babies are not able to avert their gaze from the flickering light emitted by the screen, which can disrupt sleep if watched too close to bedtime. From 18 months, limited amounts of high quality TV content are OK, provided the child is supervised.

Children aged 2 to 4 years old

Ideally, it’s best to keep sedentary screen time to under 1 hour where possible; less is better. Research suggests that screen time shared with parents provides the most benefits for children.

How Screens Can Affect Your Child’s Development

Spending too much time in front of a screen can affect your little one’s development in a number of ways:

  • Missing out on opportunities to learn from real life experiences and activities

  • Reduced concentration due to being distracted by screens

  • Poor or severely damaged emotional health

  • Reduced physical activity

  • Irrular sleep patterns

  • Higher risk of obesity

Too much screen time can also impact your little one’s language skills. Interacting with parents and other people in a child’s life is a key way in which children learn to talk and communicate during infancy. These interactions later develop into conversations, which allow children to make themselves heard and communicate what they’re feeling. Watching screens too much can limit the number of interactions a child has, in turn restricting their social skills. That’s not to say it’s all bad. With access to a device, small children, even infants, can now benefit from immersive experiences through touch screens, games and videos. Something which can have major potential for their learning skills and psychological growth.

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Making the Most of Screen Time

With screens now an almost necessary part of life, you may be wondering how to help your little one get the best out of their screen time. There are a number of ways you can transform time in front of the screen into an educational, enriching experience for your child.

  • Get involved. Give your child the opportunity to practice their language skills by asking them about what they can see on the screen. This may also encourage your toddler to learn about what they’re watching and how it relates to the world around them.

  • Bring the screen to life. Let your little one dive into a world of fantasy by having them act out what he or she watches on the screen. Engaging in play and imitating things seen on screen can help your child develop and show they might be starting to understand how the world works.

  • Limit the available options. Instead of saying ’Do you want some screen time?’, offering your child the closed option of ’this programme or that game’ can often be helpful. This ensures they are aware of the best a screen can offer.

Tips for Managing Screen Time

Just like adults, children can find screen time so compelling that they may start losing interest in other activities. In this case, you may want to try limiting screen time to restrict any negative influences. Here are some tips on how to manage screen time:

  • Be a good role model. Children are highly influenced by the behaviour of those around them. Try looking up from your phone or laptop when they speak to you to let them know they have your full attention.

  • No screens in the bedroom. Artificial lighting from screens can stimulate your toddler’s brain, which reduces the production of melatonin, making it harder for your toddler to fall asleep. Help your child get a better night’s sleep by making their bedroom a no-screen zone. Instead of watching TV, you may like to use the hour before bed to read a book or bedtime story.

  • Pay attention to background noise. Noise from TVs, the radio or video games can often be a nuisance. If you aren’t actively watching or listening to a screen, turning it off can help create a better environment for your child to learn to listen.

  • Get outside. When children spend too much time focusing on technology, they’re missing out on gaining valuable social skills and physical activity. Check out our list of activities to promote your child’s development.


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3-year-old Behaviour and Development

Keeping Your Child Safe Online

As your little one grows into a toddler, he or she may start browsing the internet during his or her screen time. It’s important that things are in place to keep your child safe online. Here are a couple of things you can do to protect your child on the internet:

  • Supervise younger children when they use the internet to monitor what they are doing and help if they get into any trouble.

  • If you have any concerns about a website or app they are using, ask them to show it to you. Talking about your worries can help normalise the topic. Regularly discussing online safety is a good way to help make your little one aware of the dangers of the internet and technology, while promoting a healthy relationship.

  • Use parental controls to block upsetting or harmful content your child may encounter online, control in-app purchases or manage how long your child spends online.


There are no official UK guidelines on how much screen time is recommended for kids. Ideally, try to aim for as little as possible. You might like to try encouraging your child to participate in other activities like playing outside, reading, having conversations and doing craft activities as an alternative.

The Bottom Line

While allowing internet access and screen time can benefit your little one in certain ways, it’s not a necessary part of life for young children. Face-to-face contact and play with their parents and family are far more important. When your little one grows into a toddler, limiting screen time is still a good way to help your child’s physical and social development. If you’re looking for an alternative to screen time, check out our lists of baby games and craft activities for toddlers for inspiration.

How we wrote this article
The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the National Health Service (NHS). You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.

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