Screen time in children 3-10 years
Children use the Internet and cell phones very differently, depending on their stage of development, age and interests. The way families deal with media also shapes the way they use them. Therefore, the following ages, times and descriptions can only be guidelines for discussing the topic of "screen time" in the family. And it is more important to have a balanced daily routine than to adhere to exact minute specifications. Consider how much media use is fun for your child, fits into your family's daily routine and still leaves your child enough time for other exciting activities. And of course, there's nothing wrong with your child talking to grandma on a video call.
The suggested times refer to the use of screens in general - i.e. smartphones, TVs, tablets, game consoles, laptops and computers. Parents should therefore always keep an eye on children's overall media use or screen time.
- 0 to 2 years: If possible, no screen media, rather picture books and audio plays/songs.
- 2 to 3 years: 5to 10 minutes of supervised screen time; only age-appropriate, selected offerings; video chats with grandma (together with parents) via smartphone or tablet are perfectly fine and can, of course, sometimes last longer.
- 4 to 6 years: Maximum 30 minutes per day; not necessarily daily; accompanied screen time and only age-appropriate content depending on the child's interests.
- 7 to 10 years: Maximum 60 minutes per day of free screen time; not necessarily daily; content is discussed together. Important: Parental control tools and settings should be used to support when the child is sometimes online unaccompanied. If surfing and TV watching is no longer done together, parents and children should stay in conversation about what the child is doing and the content that is being watched or played.
However, daily set times are often difficult, as children at this age have many other schedules. It might also be practical to set up a weekly time account that is available not only for Internet use, but also for TV and computer games. If, for example, eight hours of screen time per week have been agreed, the children can dispose of this time themselves according to certain rules.
A media use contract and media vouchers can help set clear rules and illustrate time for children.
Children need to learn how to use the Internet properly. They need your full support in doing so. Keep in mind: If used sensibly, the positive aspects of the Internet outweigh the negative ones. Talk to your child as openly and honestly as possible and with a positive attitude about the opportunities and dangers of the Internet. Much of what your child learns comes from observing and imitating your media behavior. Regularly check your own use of media and always make it clear to yourself that you are a role model.
Find a suitable location for Internet access. If a laptop is located in the living room instead of the children's room, for example, parents have a better overview of the children's Internet use.
Set up a separate (restricted depending on age) user account for your child. Also use filter programs and other technical youth protection settings as a supplement to educational control. Install security updates for the operating system regularly and protect the computer against digital pests with firewall and virus protection.
Draw up a media usage agreement that is appropriate to the age of the child. In this contract, it is agreed, for example, that children will not post any personal data on the Internet and will not use certain services, such as downloads or competitions, on their own. The contract can also specify surfing times . The agreement can be posted prominently above the surfing area. Agree on clear and proportionate consequences if rules are deliberately and repeatedly not observed.
A conscious and critical approach to the Internet also includes ensuring that children understand how the Internet works and can recognize advertising as such. Also educate children about data protection and copyrights. You can find concrete help on this on the Internet-ABC website and in the following materials:
Make sure that your child uses age-appropriate offers on the Internet. Selected websites that are suitable for children and correspond to their interests can be saved as bookmarks in the browser. A favorite site or search engine for children can also be set as the start page. For younger children, it is quite sufficient to limit the web to a handful of good offers. The surfing space can then be expanded step by step. Older children should be involved in the selection process and be allowed to create their own collections.
In the beginning, don't let your children search with "adult search engines" such as Google, Ecosia or Startpage. Children will also find what they are looking for with children's search engines. By the end of elementary school, most children will already be competent enough to navigate the web more freely. Therefore, get your child used to the possibilities of surfing with favorites or bookmarks on his or her own user account. Accompany your child if he or she wants to try out general search engines in addition to the children's search engines. Help your child to recognize how much truth and credibility there is behind an online offer.