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How Much Screen Time is Okay for My Toddler?

Screen time for toddlers can be a tricky element of parenting to navigate; we want the very best for our children and their development, but sometimes we also just want a break - one that phones, tablets and TV can easily provide.


It’s no wonder then that screen time has risen in the ranks as one of the most added custom logs by Onoco families, allowing them to track and see their child’s screen exposure on a daily and weekly basis thanks to our insights and patterns charts.


But the question remains, how much screen time is actually okay?


The World Health Organisation (WHO) says no screen time for those under one year, and the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines agree, with an exception for video calls with family members who may be away.


They then go on to recommend limited educational programming, and with a caregiver present, for 18-24 months; non-educational screen time limited to one hour per weekday and three hours on weekends for those aged 2-5 years; and continued limitation and supervision from six up.


It’s important to note that ‘screen time’ includes TVs, tablets, phones and computers. If this is something you struggle to manage (and trust us, we understand!) then custom logs are a fantastic solution, giving you the ability to add a note to your tracker, so you can easily see how much time is spent not only on screen time as a whole but on the individual types.


Further to this, you’ll also be able to see the impact of your child’s screen time on other activities and behaviours, making it even easier to develop healthy and positive routines.


As Unicef highlights in their article Babies need humans, not screens, children under a year old rarely learn anything from a machine or screen and are much more influenced by their parents and caregivers. That is, this is the time to work on their development through engaging activities together, such as tummy time and story time.


Also highlighted by Unicef:


  • Screens can impact attention spans, reducing a child’s ability to concentrate and focus due to the constant flow of information; reading stories and speaking out loud instead give time to process words, images and voices at a speed your little one can better understand

  • Boredom is good!

  • Screens can actually reduce empathy, as face-to-face interactions are the only way young children learn to understand and interpret nonverbal messages.


There are of course other considerations, as highlighted by NCT, including reduced sleep and negatively impacted sleep patterns; the potential of lower levels of self-worth and self-esteem; and an overall more sedentary lifestyle leading to long-term health issues.


However, NCT also go on to outline some of the benefits of screen time, which include:


  • Educational apps and programming can help toddlers with their language, numeracy, visual thinking and imagination but primarily when adults interact with them alongside the screen time, to foster play and creativity together

  • Using touch screens and controls can help children develop better control over small hand movements, which can help with other developments such as holding pencils for writing

  • Educating our children in navigating screen time means we’re encouraging important digital skills which they will undoubtedly need throughout their lives and careers

  • It can give you a breather! Like we said at the beginning of this blog, screens can provide much needed peace in our busy lives, and can often encourage our little ones to take a calm break too.


As with much of life, screen time is about balance, and keeping a perspective on the length, quality and combination of screens and information your little one is receiving. Don’t forget you can also explore over 450 milestones based on the UK’s Early Years Foundation Stage framework for development to keep track of your little one’s progress.


A toddler leans forward on their arms to look at a phone screen; their father is sat behind them, smiling

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