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Screen Time Guidelines for Teens

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
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Teens spend a lot of time in front of screens. But too much screen time can interfere with getting enough exercise, doing homework, being with friends, and spending time with family. It also can contribute to obesity, attention and learning problems, and sleep problems.

Screen time can include things like researching a school project, creating music or art, or interacting with friends via social media. It also includes watching TV shows, streaming videos, and playing games.

Parents should continue to set limits on screen time and stay aware of what their teens are doing online.

How Much Is Too Much?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents of kids and teens place consistent limits on media use. Media includes entertainment (like watching TV and playing video games), and education (like researching a school project).

Not all screen time is the same. Teens are more independent, but it's still up to parents to decide how (and how often) their teens use screens. Teens may need to spend more time online doing homework but they may also spend a lot of time on social media, playing games, or watching TV and videos.

Screen time should not replace time needed for sleeping, eating, being active, studying, and interacting with family and friends.

Screen Time Tips

  • Encourage teens to be involved in variety of free-time activities, like spending time with friends, joining clubs or after-school activities, and exercising. Encourage your teen to be physically active every day and get enough sleep.
  • Turn off all screens during meals and at least an hour before bedtime. Keep devices with screens out of your teen's bedroom after bedtime and don't allow a TV in your teen's bedroom. This will help your teen get enough sleep.
  • Research video and computer games before letting your teen get them. Look at the ratings, which can run from EC (meaning "early childhood") to AO (meaning "adults only"). Teens probably should be limited to games rated T (for "teens") or younger. If possible, preview games and even play them with your teen to see what they're like. The game's rating may not match what you feel is OK.
  • Spend time together with your teen watching TV, playing games, or going online. Use this time as a chance to talk and learn together.
  • Keep the computer in a common area where you can watch what's going on. Teach your teen about safe Internet and social media use Make sure they know the dangers of sharing private information online, cyberbullying, or sexting. 
  • Set a good example. Turn off TVs and other screens when not in use. Don’t leave screens on in the background. Turn off or mute your phone when you’re not using it and during family times, like meals.

Talk to your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about managing your teen’s screen use.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: January 2021