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Media Use Guidelines: Preschoolers

Preschoolers learn by interacting with the world around them. They need to be physically active — to run, climb, and swing on the playground — and to have time to be creative, figure things out, and use their imaginations through play.

Time spent with devices (like a TV, tablet, or smartphone) can help reinforce learning and promote creative play when you choose educational programs, games, and apps. But too much screen time may lead to learning and sleep problems and increase a child’s chances of obesity.

For this reason, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends limiting the time that preschoolers spend in front of a screen. It's good advice — but in today's world, it can be tough to keep kids away from all the TVs, tablets, computers, smartphones, and gaming systems they'll see. That’s why parents need to set limits on how much time their kids spend using these devices.

How Much Is Too Much?

Preschoolers ages 2 to 5 can watch up to 1 hour a day of high-quality educational programming. The exception to this rule is video chatting with grandparents or other family friends, which is considered quality time interacting with others.

Media Use Tips

The same parenting rules apply to media use as to anything else — set a good example, establish limits, and talk with your child about it.

To make your preschooler's screen time more productive:

  • Be with young kids during media use and interact with them. That can mean playing an educational game with your child or talking about something you see together in an age-appropriate TV show or video.
  • Research games and apps before getting them for your child. Thousands of apps and games claim to be educational, but not all of them are. Search online to see which ones educators and doctors consider the best. Common Sense Media has information about age and content appropriateness of video games and other media. When possible, preview the media before sharing with your child.
  • Schedule plenty of non-screen time into your child's day.Playtime is important for learning and building creativity. Preschoolers should have time to play away from screens every day. Schedule lots of time for hands-on learning and interacting with caregivers and friends. Also, make sure your child is physically active every day and gets plenty of sleep.
  • Turn off devices during meals and at least 1 hour before bed. Keep TVs and other electronics out of kids’ bedrooms.
  • Set a good example. Turn off TVs and other screens when not in use. Turn off or mute your phone when you’re not using it, like during family meals, and make time to focus on playing with your child.

Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date Reviewed: Aug 1, 2022

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