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Screen Time Debate – How much is too much? (Part 2)

Image of Screen Time Debate – How much is too much? (Part 2)

Many parents can’t help but worry when they see their children constantly glued to their screens, whether to watch the latest YouTube videos or play their favourite games. And with the introduction of home-based learning in recent months, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the time spent by children staring into screens has further increased.

This is a worrying trend – how much screen time is too much? How can parents ensure that extended screen time does not negatively impact other aspects of their children’s lives?

Given the necessity and downsides of screen time, it is neither appropriate to remove screen time entirely nor give children free reign over the time they spend on digital devices.

Depending on your child’s age, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommend the following screen time durations:

  • Toddlers should have little to no screen time;

  • Pre-schoolers (3-5 years) should have less than 1 hour of screen time a day;

  • 6 to 10-year-olds should only have up to 1.5 hours of screen time a day;

  • Children aged 11 and above should limit their screen time to 2 hours a day.

However, the average Singaporean child spends way more time on their screens beyond the recommended durations. Based on the results of a  , 8 to 12-year-olds in Singapore spend an average of 35 hours of screen time on entertainment every week – that’s close to the amount of time they typically spend at school!

Here are some tips for managing your children’s screen time at home:

  1. Create a schedule for your child.

  • Have a discussion with your child about screen time and explain why it is necessary to limit it.

  • Work together to create an agreeable schedule for your child and yourself.

  • Ensure that important tasks such as homework are completed before screen time, and that adequate amounts of time are allocated for other non-digital activities.

  1. Dividing and restricting access to screen time

  • Engage your child in physical activity and encourage them to take frequent breaks from the screen. For instance, divide screen time into half-hour blocks rather than a single two-hour block.

  • Restrict access to screen-based devices 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime, to ensure that your child gets enough sleep.

Toddlers (1-2 years) should have 11 to 14 hours of sleep each night;

Preschoolers (3-5 years) should have 10 to 13 hours of sleep;

School-aged children (6-13 years) should have 9 to 11 hours of sleep;

Teens (14-17 years) should have 8 to 10 hours of sleep;

  1. Managing cyber-risks

  • Put in place parental control software to block unwanted web content, limit screen time and restrict the use of risky applications.

  • Communicate with them before implementation so that they understand the dangers and the need for protection and accountability.

  • Talk to them about what they do online and who they interact with.

  • Show interest in their online activities and discuss questions and issues that arise

  1. Be a role model for your child.

  • Refrain from having too much screen time yourself. Parents’ frequent phone usage may leave children feeling disconnected.

  • Instead of having separate screen times for parent and child to unwind, bring the family together through fun and meaningful activities that can help build deeper bonds.

Written by: Tan Yi Ning, Helene



DQ Institute (2018). 2018 national DQ impact report. Retrieved from https://www.singtel.com/content/dam/singtel/sustainability/Sustainability_reports_PDF%27s/2018_DQ_Singapore_National_Report.pdf

EyePromise (2019). Screen time guidelines by age. Retrieved from https://www.eyepromise.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Screentime-Recommendation-Chart-Final_AAP-WHO.pdf

Kushlev, K. & Dunn, E. W. (2018). Smartphones distract parents from cultivating feelings of connection when spending time with their children. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 1-21. http://doi.org/10.1177/0265407518769387

National Sleep Foundation (2015). National Sleep Foundation recommends new sleep times. Retrieved from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/press-release/national-sleep-foundation-recommends-new-sleep-times

Piacquadio, A. (2020). Girl wearing blue dress while using smartphone [Image]. Pexels. Retrieved from https://www.pexels.com/photo/girl-wearing-blue-dress-while-using-smartphone-3768166/

Zaman, B. & Nouwen, M. (2016). Parental controls: Advice for parents, researchers and industry. EU Kids Online, London, UK. Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/22c6/86cd0093588106518d43973929264bfdc2ef.pdf?_ga=2.111074373.1590562740.1591263479-678751824.1584449695