How long may the child sit in front of the screen?

Child at tablet and clock in background; Image: Internet ABC

Child at the tablet and clock in the background; Image: Internet-ABC

There is no general answer to this question. The decisive factor is, on the one hand, the age of the child. On the other hand, of course, the individual child with his or her abilities, knowledge and previous experience must always be considered. Parents know their child best and should decide individually. For orientation, the Internet ABC recommends the screen times below.

Please note: "Accompanied screen time Means parent and child spend this media time together. Parents should look at the offers themselves before the child comes into contact with them. The "free screen time includes free time, depending on age also accompanied, but: research for school and homework and video chats o. a. with relatives are not included.

The Internet ABC recommends for children up to 12 years:

  • 0 to 2 years: If possible, no screen media, rather picture books and audio plays/songs.
  • 2 to 3 years: 5 to 10 minutes of supervised screen time; only age-appropriate, selected content; video chats with grandma (together with parents) via smartphone or tablet are perfectly fine and can of course last longer sometimes.
  • 4 to 6 years: A maximum of 30 minutes per day; not necessarily daily; supervised screen time and only age-appropriate content depending on the child’s interests.

7 to 10 years: A maximum of 60 minutes per day of free screen time; not necessarily daily; content is discussed together. Important: Parental control tools and settings should be used for support when the child is online unaccompanied. If surfing and watching TV together is no longer done, parents and children should stay in conversation about what the child is doing and the content that is being watched or played.

Why a child should not spend hours looking at a screen (TV, computer, cell phone)?

Boy with smartphone, clock in background; Image: Internet ABC

Boy with smartphone, clock in background; image: Internet ABC

Watching TV and playing on console or computer makes children forget about time. Advertising and tips urge children to "stay tuned" – Otherwise they would miss something or not achieve a play goal.

There is not yet sufficient research on the extent to which too much in front of the screen affects development and health. Some studies (some of which are controversial) point to problems such as restlessness, poor concentration, lack of imagination or short-sightedness (especially with cell phones).

But even if this is not the case – one thing is clear: children need physical exercise, social interaction and communicative exchange with others. Younger children in particular learn through trial and error and sensory perception. They need time and space to try things out and practice their motor skills. Screen time should not prevent or limit this too much.

And yes, children must first learn to use media competently: learning to assess themselves correctly and to recognize what is good for them and what is not. By limiting time and setting rules, children learn how to use digital media consciously and well.

Moderate and good media use – how do I teach this to my child??

Children must first learn how to deal with media. The trusting support of their parents is important in this process.

  1. Rules: Rules help to avoid conflicts. In the best case, parents and children decide together – not as a result of an argument, if it has become too much for you, but calmly. Discuss together why a time limit makes sense. Try to come to an agreement. Such rules are more likely to be followed by children than those imposed "from above" have been prescribed. These rules should also include everyday routines, for example: Do your homework first; keep your smartphone away from eating, studying and sleeping.
  2. Make children understand the duration of their media time: Stopwatch on smartphone, alarm clock or egg timer next to screen can be used to playfully develop a sense of time and clearly signal to children when media time is over.
  3. Keep the conversation going: Discuss which media and content are acceptable for your child, why and when there can be exceptions to the agreed rules. In trusting cooperation, freedoms may then also be granted from time to time.
  4. Be a role model: Set a good example. Demonstrate that it is possible to get along without the Internet and smartphone at certain times.

Key words: arguing and avoiding arguments: What can I do if my child wants to sit in front of the screen constantly/hours on end?

Here, too, clear rules should be the basis (s. Question 3). But this alone is not enough: there must also be appealing alternatives. Support your child in organizing his or her free time with interesting activities and time together: Playing sports at a club, learning an instrument, going on dates with friends, going on outings together, or playing games. The screen should not be the focus, but one of many activities.

With older children, the smartphone takes on a special position. It makes you feel like you have to be available all the time to keep in touch with friends and not miss anything. Talk about these feelings – are they valid? Make joint agreements on smartphone use.

If your child virtually takes refuge in media worlds and completely disappears? Behind this can be serious problems or conflicts at school or with friends. Signal that you are there for your child. Get if necessary. professional advice and support.

Setting rules together!

Media usage contract – A contract to agree on

To avoid conflicts and come to a binding agreement, parents and children create a contract with the help of this online tool. Together you determine which media and content may be used, how and for how long.

  • Information on the media usage contract

Media vouchers

At Klicksafe, you can find templates for media vouchers to print out. This allows you to set a time budget together and give your child lots of vouchers accordingly.

Facts and figures on children’s media time

The KIM study examines the media behavior of children between 6 and 13 years of age. According to the 2020 study own

  • 34 percent of children have their own television set in their room,
  • 18 percent of children have their own computer/laptop,
  • 41 percent a game console (portable and stationary),
  • 50 percent have their own smartphone and
  • 9 percent a tablet.

Comparing the 2018 KIM study with the 2020 KIM study, some significant increases can be seen in Internet use alone (+19 percentage points), playing on a PC/laptop (+10 percentage points), playing on a smartphone (+29 percentage points), and especially playing with a tablet (+39 percentage points). The increase in media usage time may go hand in hand with pandemic conditions: for example, homeschooling and home offices may have increased the use of media to keep children occupied.

Almost half of all children (47 percent) now use a cell phone or smartphone every day or almost every day. Online games, WhatsApp, TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram accounted for the majority of cell phone usage time, according to parents.

Smartphone and stress

With the smartphone the internet has arrived in his pocket. Setting time limits becomes difficult – as long as you don’t use programs or apps that turn off the device after a specified time. Children think it’s good at first. But the smartphone can certainly cause them stress.

Means against cell phone stress

  • I don’t always have to be available to everyone!
  • I allow myself breaks in which I put the cell phone on silent or turn it off.
  • When studying and doing homework, I do not get distracted and turn off the cell phone.
  • I don’t have to have the cell phone with me everywhere and at all times.
  • In the evening and at night, I turn off the cell phone and put it in another room.
  • I do not let myself be stressed by a cell phone. I decide, not the device!
  • I agree on rules with my family so that we all have cell phone breaks.

The tips to print

  • Tips "Remedies for cell phone stress (PDF)

(Note: The tips are part of the learning module "Mobile on the Internet – Tablets and Smartphones". Here you can also find the smartphone game. This one shows how stressful it can get on the smartphone, so it’s thought provoking.)

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