How many young kids are meeting screen time guidelines?

Guidelines recommend that children have no screen time if they’re younger than 2 years of age and just 1 hour per day from ages 2 to 5 years, but with many devices making screen time a fact of life in many homes, how many families are following that guidance?

Many guidelines for screen time recommend that children aged younger than 2 years have no time with screens and that children aged 2 to 5 years have 1 hour per day at most. However, great variability exists in how many families follow those recommendations. A recent meta-analysis examines how many children are getting no more than the recommended screen time for their age.1

The investigators searched MEDLINE, PsycINFO, and Embase, for studies that included children aged 5 years and younger and measured the prevalence of a child meeting or exceeding screen time guidelines. Independent to reviewers were used to extract the relevant data from the selected literature.

A total of 63 studies were included in the metanalysis and covered 95 samples that did not overlap, with a total of 89,163 children. Among children aged younger than 2 years, the pooled prevalence of meeting the screen time guidance of 0 hours per day was 24.7% (95% CI, 19.0%-31.5%). Analysis showed that the prevalence of adhering to the screen time guidelines varied with the measurement method (higher when studies used questionnaires rather than interviews), the type of devices used (higher when a combination of screen use activities was considered rather than just movies and television), and the year of data collection, which increased over time. For children aged 2 to 5 years, the average prevalence of meeting the screen time guideline of 1 hour per day was 35.6% (95% CI, 30.6%-40.9%). Further study showed that the prevalence of meeting the guidelines varied with the types of device used, with it being higher when screen time was only television and movies, rather than a variety of activities.

The investigators concluded that many young children are not meeting the screen time guidelines. The proliferation of screens in a child’s life, in addition to the past couple of years leading to many parents relaxing rules, have made it more difficult for families to follows the guidelines. Investigators believe that clinicians should provide further assistance to help families fit the guidelines into their lives.

Reference

1. McArthur B, Volkova V, Tomopoulos S, Madigan S. Global prevalence of meeting screen time guidelines among children 5 years and younger: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Pediatr. February 14, 2022. Epub ahead of print. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2021.6386