Is Screen Time Allowed?

Following the report on screen time from the American Academy of Pediatrics, we often receive the question on whether or not programs can use TV, videos, computers in the early childhood classrooms.

The short answer YES… but with some limitations and meaningful intentions. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting total media time to no more than 2 hours in a 24 hours period (home and early education programs). Since providers and teachers have no control over how long children spend in front of screens while at home, the AAP further recommends limiting screen time in ECE settings.

Please see the Updated Notes for Clarification for ECERS-R, FCCERS-R, and ITERS-R for detailed information about screen time and each scale, and Caring For Our Children standard

Basic ideas to keep in mind:

  • No child under the age of two should have any screen time
  • Weekly screen time should be no more than 30 minutes total (this includes all screen time: TV, movies, and computer)
  • Computer time should be limited to 15 minutes per day (this time counts toward the 30 minute weekly allotment of screen time)

shutterstock_165821084It is important to remember use of an IPads, Kindle, tablet, electronic reader, smartboard, handheld game, and even a cell phone all count as screen time. Some Leap Pad materials or other electronic toys also act as computer screens. Many programs have received grants for the purchase and use of IPad. Some programs use the IPad sparingly to enhance learning topics or to extend children’s ideas. For example, during a study on shadows, a preschool class watched a 3 minute, age appropriate video on lightness, darkness, and what creates a shadow during large group time. No other screen time was allowed that day.

If children ask a question, such as “What’s a tornado look like?” and providers respond by talking about tornados, looking in a book for information, or showing a short, age appropriate YouTube clip of a tornado, the screen time meets the requirements of teacher involvement and being educational. Some programs allow a brief check of the Decorah Eagle Cam throughout the week, allowing the children to see the nest, eggs, growth, feedings, etc. These types of media usage can be educational and extend children’s learning, but if children are allowed further screen time during the day/week, they can quickly exceed the maximum amount of screen time in a day or week.

Some programs use a computer for music and movement activities. When used appropriately and at limited times, these computer activities/programs can be appropriate. Some providers use computer programs like Pandora to play music. These programs can offer a broad range of music, including music from various cultures. Music time does count for screen time when accompanied by a video, such as through youtube or an exercise/ dance video.

Check out this Screen-Time Reduction Toolkit for Child Care Providers from Let’s Move! Child Care.

What are some ways you have seen programs use videos or computers to enhance children’s learning?

Jamie Signature






Melissa Wagner

Melissa Wagner

Melissa Wagner is an Early Childhood Coordinator with Iowa State University Extension & Outreach. Melissa has over 10 years of experience with the Environment Rating Scales as an assessor for research projects and Iowa's Quality Rating System and now as the ERS Training project coordinator. Melissa loves hearing success stories about providers who have made great strides to improve the quality of care within their program. In her free time she enjoys spending time with family, traveling, camping, and house projects.

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