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Screen time for babies and toddlers more than doubles

A mom in a striped shirt and a toddler in polka dots smile at a tablet screen as they video chat with grandma and grandpa.

March 12, 2019—Screen time for kids age 2 and under has more than doubled since the 1990s, a new study shows. But don't blame smartphones or tablets for that jump. Babies and toddlers get almost all of their screen time from TV.

The study looked at data on kids' screen time in 1997 and 2014. That's before and after mobile devices became widespread. It found that for kids 2 and under:

  • Daily screen time was 1.32 hours in 1997. It had climbed to 3.05 hours by 2014.
  • TV alone accounted for more than 2.5 hours of screen time in 2014. It was only a half hour in 1997.

For kids age 3 to 5, daily screen time stayed pretty steady at around 2.5 hours. But like their younger counterparts, older kids spent most of that time in front of TVs.

The study appeared in JAMA Pediatrics.

What's best for your little one?

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises avoiding screen time altogether if your child is younger than 18 months. There's an exception though: video chats with loved ones like Grandma and Grandpa. That's quality time for everybody.

Little ones 18 to 24 months can start to enjoy very limited screen time. But be choosy. Whatever your child views should be educational and of high quality. Always watch with your child. And reteach the lessons.

At ages 2 to 5, daily screen time should be no more than 1 hour. Keep watching with your child. And be sure what your youngster views is:

  • Interactive.
  • Nonviolent.
  • Educational.
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