How Much Screen Time is too Much Screen Time?

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“Who is going to win?  Put your guess in the comments below!” yells Declan.

I look at Declan who is carrying a shoe box filled with his favorite Imaginext figures.

He is looking at me with anticipation, hoping to elicit a response from me.

“Um, Spiderman?” I venture.  Somehow, Spiderman ALWAYS wins EVERYTHING with Declan.

And he begins to shake his box.

Rumble Shake” is the name of the game he learned from watching Kid City on You Tube.  The box is shaken until all the hero’s pop out but one.  When Declan plays, he will stop to determine who fell.  If his beloved Spiderman pops out, the game is stopped until Spiderman can be returned to the box.  Then the shaking continues until Declan stops to announce:


I knew it.  Good guess, Mommy.  Spiderman always wins.

Declan is a walking You Tube video.  His repetitive behavior pattern is to watch the same ten second video over and over again.  He finds the repetition of speech, or echolalia, pleasing as I discussed in the post “Copycat Speech: Echolalia” found here.

But – if he can recite the videos word for word, how many times has he watched it?  Which leads to the larger question:

How much screen time is too much screen time?

These days there is access to digital media everywhere.

I am very happy media is available when we are out at a restaurant, a store or waiting in a line.  If I am unable to redirect Declan’s attention, I usually have success pulling out my phone and playing a video for him.

But what about at home?

According to Medline, children over the age of 2 should limit their screen time to 2 hours per day (article found here).  They found that too much screen time can:

  • Make it hard for children to sleep at night
  • Increase risk of attention problems
  • Increase risk of becoming overweight due to being sedentary

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children between the age of 18-24 months should watch the screen with an adult, to help explain and teach what is being watched.

How much time are kids ACTUALLY interacting with screens instead of people?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics children are actually spending and average of 7 HOURS PER DAY in front of the screen.

What?!?!  I have to say – I find that number mind-blowing!

What about children with Autism?

It was found in a recent study by Guillermo Montes that children with Autism spent equivalent time in front of the screen as their typically developing peers.  Specifically, children with autism spent 3.21 hours per day in front of a screen as opposed to typically developing peers at 3.46 hours per day.  (Study info found here).

Those numbers sound about right to me, as far as what I would say for our family.

Yes, Declan watches You Tube videos.  His favorite TV show is Teen Titans Go!  If he were to watch a movie, it would be a kids movie with songs in it.

If I were to add up all the minutes Declan were watching a screen, I would say 3 hours sounds about right.  Declan goes to preschool.  At home, I need to get him out in the sunlight to get a good nights sleep.  We play with others to help learn social skills, something Declan needs to experience to learn.

But I do find benefit from screen time.

  • Watching videos helped evoke speech, as I spoke about in my post “Helping Speech Through Music” found here.
  • Declan lacks imaginative play, but can replicate play he has watched.  So – hey – videos instill play that wasn’t there before – Fantastic!
  • In a world where I have to direct all activities and free time, I enjoy a 10 minute break.  Any unstructured time Declan has leads to something unfavorable.  A video gives me the moment of respite to start over again.

Declan does not sit long.  He is always moving.  Even in front of the screen.  He will lay on his back, on his side, on his head then flip over a chair.  He will sit crouched on his toes at the edge of a counter for a while then jump off and twirl around.

Yes, he is probably watching more screen than 2 hours per day.  But we keep an active lifestyle, there are no electronics in his room and I believe there is an element of learning in his time with the screen.

The recommendation is 2 hours of screen time per day.  I find the information as a good guideline and will keep it in mind around my family’s needs.



5 thoughts on “How Much Screen Time is too Much Screen Time?

  1. Wow this is amazing. My friend Daryl on here recommended I follow you. I myself have twin autistic sons. And yet it is challenging it is also rewarding

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