How Long Should A Child Be On A Tablet?

Last Updated on July 6, 2022 by Ernest

Tablets have become a predominant part of our life. By extension, they are also being increasingly used by children and toddlers. This begs the question, how long should a child be on a tablet? Let’s find out. 

Here is how long a child should be on a tablet:

  • 2 Years Or Lesser: 0 Minutes
  • 2-5 Years Old: 1-2 Hours
  • 5-16 Years Old: 2-3 Hours

In this article, we’re going to be taking a look at exactly why children should not be using tablets for a longer time, the disadvantages of doing so and a few medical studies that accentuate our claims. 

When Should I Let My Child Use A Tablet?

You should let your child use a tablet after they are 5-6 years old. Before that, they can use the tablet. But, it should be under strict supervision generally for co-viewing with a parent / having video calls with family.

According to a study, children at 3 years old develop a cognitive function that is sufficient enough for them to be able to use tablets and utilize advanced applications with ease. However, the same study also reports that it is quite harmful to younger individuals to go about doing so as they can develop their cognition by engaging in more physically challenging abilities.

How Long Should A Child Be On A Tablet A Day?

A child’s usage of a tablet depends on their age. According to Dr. Yousuf from OSF Healthcare, here are the recommended times:

AgeTime Limit
2 Years And LessNo screen other than using it for interacting with friends and family
2-5 Years OldsOnly 1-2 hours and only with parental supervision / co-viewing
5-15 Years OldsIndependent usage for 1-2 hours. More usage can be allotted if homework needs to be done 

WHO Screen Time

The World Health Organization has also published its own series of medical research that endorses particular guidelines in regard to screen time for children. 

AgeTime Limit
1 Years And Less0 Minutes
1-2 Years Olds60 Minutes
3-4 Years Olds60 Minutes

Infants (Less Than 1 Year)

Children (1-2 Years)

Children (3-4 Years)

Following this routine can be quite tough, especially for newer parents. Thankfully, the American Academy of Pediatrics has a handy utility that lets you create a Family Media Plan. With it, you can jot down your family’s needs and concoct a timetable / schedule that best suits you.

Contrary to popular belief, screen time limitations are not for each device, but are rather present for ALL electronic devices. So, your child can’t watch two hours of TV and spend two hours on a tablet later on. Their screen time and tablet time are one and the same.

How Much Do Children Currently Use Tablets?

According to a study conducted by the National Library of Medicine, children aged 3-5 spend an average of 115 minutes on their tablets. However, there is a large number of outliers who spend more than 4-5 hours on their tablets each day.


Surprisingly though, there was no quantifiable way to accurately estimate how much time children spend on their tablets. Instead, parents were asked to give their assumptions. Therefore, a margin of error exists. In most cases, parents underestimated their children’s usage of tablets.

So, with that logic, it is clear that we cannot rely on ourselves to ensure whether our children are using tablets adequately or not. Therefore, using parental control applications to track time and place restrictions adequately according to the age group your child belongs to is your best bet. 

Disadvantages Of High Screen Time In Children

It is extremely harmful to children under 5 years of age to be using tablets for more than 1-2 hours a day. According to a study published in BMJ Journals, 5-year-old children are now using their tablets and smartphones more than ever.

With this added screen time, there is a tangible negative effect on their emotional development and carries long-term risks which include reduced psychosocial development. In layman’s terms, it reduces their social development and leads to concerning behavior.

Therefore, in no way or form should you let your child engage with their tablet for hours on end as it can severely harm their hand even though it might not seem so in the short term. 

Is It Beneficial For Children To Use Tablets?

Yes, under adult supervision and under restricted timings, it is very beneficial for children to use tablets. According to a study conducted by the Department of Psychology at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, children’s cognition is helped by their usage of kid-friendly learning-oriented applications at younger ages.

Moreover, there also is a lot of helpful and educational material present on tablets for kids. This content can help your child learn in a different manner that may not be possible in any other way. But, as we mentioned earlier, ensuring that the time they spend on their tablets is limited is of utmost priority.

Conclusion

Tablets for kids are a double-edged sword. They can be extremely beneficial but can also lead to significant harm if children are overstimulated. If you keep your child in check and place proper parental restrictions on the tablet, you’ll be able to reap all the benefits while keeping none of the harm.

After all, they have their entire life to use tablets and gadgets.

References:

Radesky, J. S., Weeks, H. M., Ball, R., Schaller, A., Yeo, S., Durnez, J., Tamayo-Rios, M., Epstein, M., Kirkorian, H., Coyne, S., & Barr, R. (2020). Young Children’s Use of Smartphones and Tablets. Pediatrics, 146(1), e20193518. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2019-3518

Courage, M. L., Frizzell, L. M., Walsh, C. S., & Smith, M. (2021). Toddlers using tablets: They engage, play, and learn. Frontiers in Psychology, 12. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.564479 

Niiranen J, Kiviruusu O, Vornanen R, et alHigh-dose electronic media use in five-year-olds and its association with their psychosocial symptoms: a cohort study BMJ Open 2021

World Health Organization. (n.d.). Guidelines on physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep for children under 5 years of age. World Health Organization. Retrieved June 25, 2022, from https://www.who.int/publications-detail-redirect/9789241550536 

Legner, L., About Author: Luke Legner Luke Legner is a writing coordinator at OSF HealthCare. He joined the Ministry in April 2021 after several years working in corporate communications in the heavy equipment industry. A P, Legner, A. A. L., & Luke Legner is a writing coordinator at OSF HealthCare. He joined the Ministry in April 2021 after several years working in corporate communications in the heavy equipment industry. A Pontiac native. (2022, April 22). Kids’ screen time: How much is too much? OSF HealthCare Blog. Retrieved June 25, 2022, from https://www.osfhealthcare.org/blog/kids-screen-time-how-much-is-too-much/ 

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I love tech and all about it. I'm interested in finding ways how they can make my life more productive, and I share my knowledge with my blog readers. I'm an iPad Pro, iPhone, MacBook, and Apple Watch user, so I know a thing or two about these devices and try to write helpful content around these topics.