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Screen Time and Students: How Much is Too Much?

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In today’s world, screen time is nearly unavoidable even for young children, leaving many administrators, teachers, and parents wondering how much screen time is too much. According to recently updated guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), there is no simple answer to that question.

The AAP now recommends focusing on what’s best for each individual child, taking into account their age and how they’re using these devices. Recommendations for daily limits vary by age:

  • Infants and toddlers should have no screen time except for video chatting with loved ones
  • Children aged two to five should be limited to one hour per day
  • And screen time for older children should be limited and monitored, and more focused on productivity (i.e., learning, creating, and communicating) than on entertainment

The AAP also updated its definition for screen time specifically to “time spent using digital media for entertainment purposes,” so time spent on devices for learning is no longer considered to be screen time.

This change couldn’t have come at a better time as schools increasingly move to administering standardized tests, many of which feature technology-enhanced items, on computers. In the 2015–2016 school year, over 80% of standardized tests taken by students in grades 3–8 were offered on computers. And research has shown that getting adequate practice with computers and technology-enhanced items can result in higher test scores for students. It’s important, then, that students get the practice they need so they aren’t spending their test time simply figuring out how to answer these questions.

We also live in a world that is getting more digital with each passing day, so it is important that kids learn digital literacy skills. Interacting with devices both in school and at home can help to build these skills, which can help them to be more successful on both high-stakes tests and later in life.

Some of the most important considerations for integrating screen time into school and home life include the following:

  • Use programs that actually are educational, meaning that they were built with the help of experts, use a curriculum, and are backed in research. Many apps and games claim to be educational, but offer little more than a digitized textbook or tapping and swiping, which can actually limit understanding and learning.
  • Teach kids to use devices to create and communicate. Computers and tablets can be great for students less likely to speak up in class to show their deeper understanding.
  • Make sure teachers know how to integrate the technology into their classrooms. When teachers are aware of what these devices can offer, they can use them to add to their students’ classroom experience in a meaningful way.

Screen time isn’t good or bad; it’s all about how you use it. For more information about educational programs and solutions for use in the classroom, visit


EdTech Strategies. (2015, November 5). Pencils down: the shift to online & computer-based testing. Arlington, VA: EdTech Strategies. Retrieved from

Guernsey, L. (2013, April 15). The smart way to use iPads in the classroom. Slate. Retrieved from

Middlebrook, H. (2016, October 21). New screen time rules for kids, by doctors. CNN Health. Retrieved from

WETA. (n.d.). Educational media: Screen time and literacy. Reading Rockets Professional Development Webcast Series. Retrieved from

About the Author


Laura Almozara

As a child, Laura spent a lot of time reading and telling stories, at one point reading a new book every day. She took that interest with her to college, where she studied English and journalism. She then started working in publishing and eventually made her way to edtech. Laura is excited to be a part of the Where Learning Clicks team, helping to provide innovative education tools to some of the people who need them most.