Screen Time Restrictions for Children: Who Should Be Responsible?

*The translation of this article in French, German, Portuguese and Spanish has been made through machine translation and has not been edited yet. we apologise for any inaccuracies.

Should the responsibility of monitoring children’s screen time be left to individual parents, or do we need national guidelines to ensure the future cognitive and mental health of our children? Read on to find out what over 4 800 healthcare professionals think about national screen time guidelines for children in the latest M3 Pulse results.

There have been worrying trends of increased screen time in recent years. Global statistics from 2023 show that the average person spends a total of 6 hours and 37 minutes of screen time on TV, computers, smartphones, and tablets each day. 3 hours and 46 minutes out of those hours are spent on mobiles, primarily for social media use.

As smartphones and tablets continue to integrate into every aspect of our lives, including for parental and educational purposes, the amount of time children and young people spend using screens is increasing exponentially, surpassing the recommended guidelines set by governments and public health organisations.

Some experts argue this trend is a rising public health issue and it may worsen as these young individuals grow up and enter society. Research indicates that infants, children, and young adults who spend an excessive amount of time on screens are more likely to develop negative cognitive outcomes, mental health issues, and addictive behaviours later in life.

Other researchers and sceptics, however, argue that the existing research lacks robustness and long-term data to draw definitive conclusions. They point out that studying the long-term negative health effects in children poses several challenges, such as limited historical data, inadequate measurement tools, and ways to exclude other environmental factors which may impact these findings. These limitations highlight the need for further research and improved research methodologies in this area. It is further argued that the potential positive outcomes associated with screen time for children should not be overlooked. For example, electronic devices with screens provide better access to user-friendly information and educational materials, can improve problem-solving and literacy skills, foster critical thinking, and promote the early development of fine motor skills, all of which can benefit children later in life.

As a healthcare professional, do you think national screen time regulations are needed in your country? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

screen time

Screen Time Negative Effects on Children’s Health

Although more research is needed to draw definitive conclusions, research findings indicate that excessive screen time can have various negative effects on children. Some of the well-known potential impacts include:

    1. Cognitive development: Spending excessive time on screens can interfere with children’s cognitive development. It may affect their ability to focus, concentrate, and engage in sustained attention, which can have long-term consequences for their learning and academic performance.

    2. Sleep disturbances: Exposure to screens, particularly close to bedtime, can disrupt the natural sleep-wake cycle. The blue light emitted by screens can interfere with the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep. As a result, excessive screen time can lead to difficulties falling asleep and getting sufficient restful sleep, which can impact children’s overall well-being and cognitive function.

    3. Social and emotional difficulties: Excessive screen time can hinder the development of social skills and emotional intelligence in children. Spending excessive time on screens may limit face-to-face interactions, affect their ability to recognise and interpret non-verbal cues, and reduce empathy and communication skills.

    4. Mental health issues: Research suggests a link between excessive screen time and mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem in children. Excessive screen use can contribute to feelings of social isolation, cyberbullying, and exposure to inappropriate content, which can negatively impact their mental well-being.

    5. Impaired language and communication skills: Excessive screen time may limit opportunities for language development and hinder the development of effective communication skills. Lack of real-time, meaningful interactions and reduced exposure to diverse vocabulary and language models can have detrimental effects on children’s language acquisition and communication abilities.

    6. Physical health issues: Sedentary screen time can contribute to a more inactive lifestyle, leading to an increased risk of obesity and associated health problems such as cardiovascular issues, diabetes, and musculoskeletal disorders. Additionally, poor posture and eye strain are common issues resulting from prolonged screen use.
screen time restriction

National Screen Time Guidelines for Parents and Children

To address the potential risks associated with excessive screen time among children and infants, The World Health Organisation (WHO) and some countries such as Denmark, Norway, Germany, France, and Australia have formulated national guidelines to provide recommendations for parents and schools.

Examples of national and organisational recommendations on screen time for children:

WHO Recommendations of Screen Time for Children:*

  • Infants less than 12 months: Not recommended
  • 2 years of age: No more than an hour, with less time preferred
  • 3 to 4 years old: No more than one hour

Germany’s National Screen Time Recommendations for Children:*


  • Infants and toddlers: 0 minutes
  • Pre-school children: as little as possible, a maximum of 30 minutes per day
  • Primary school children: as little as possible, a maximum of 60 minutes per day
  • Adolescents: as little as possible, a maximum of 120 minutes per day
Australia’s National Screen Time Recommendations for Children:*

  • No screen time for children younger than two years
  • No more than one hour of screen time per day for children aged 2–5 years
  • No more than two hours of sedentary recreational screen time per day for children and young people aged 5–17 years (not including schoolwork).

These guidelines are designed to offer advice on avoiding excessive screen time, but there are inherent limitations on how governments can effectively address these concerns. This raises questions: should more countries adopt national screen time guidelines for children, and to what degree should they be enforced? Join the discussion by sharing your thoughts in the comment section below or on Instagram.

screen time guidelines

Healthcare professionals' view on national screen time restrictions for children

In our latest M3 Pulse survey conducted in June, we gathered insights from 4 834 healthcare professionals worldwide regarding the importance of implementing national guidelines for young children to improve developmental and mental health outcomes.

Check out the results below and share your thoughts in the comment section below. Do you agree?

*Please select your language

M3 Pulse is a one-question online survey we conduct every month with our M3 panel members. It´s a fun and easy way to share your opinions about trending healthcare topics with a global community of healthcare professionals. If you want to participate in this month´s M3 Pulse, register and join the M3 panel today.

The M3 survey results demonstrate strong support among healthcare professionals. Approximately 70% of respondents think implementing national screen time guidelines is very important for ensuring children’s developmental and mental health. Around 20% of participants considered it to be somewhat important. A small percentage of respondents, 5%, maintained a neutral stance on the issue, while a mere 2% expressed they find it unimportant.

Some respondents provided additional commentary on the topic, emphasising that while clear guidelines are important, it is crucial to educate parents about the potential risks associated with excessive screen time for children. However, the ultimate decision on how to parent and foster their children should be left to the parents themselves.

M3 members’ viewpoint highlights the importance of finding a balance between providing guidelines and respecting parental autonomy. Clear guidelines and education can serve as valuable tools for parents, offering them evidence-based recommendations and help to make informed decisions regarding their children’s screen time. The combination of clear guidelines, parental education, and individual decision-making can create a holistic approach that respects both the importance of protecting children’s well-being and the rights of parents to make individual choices about their children’s upbringing.

The discussion surrounding the extent of responsibility and enforcement that governments should assume in addressing screen time issues for children is an ongoing process. As further research is conducted and trends in screen time evolve, the question of whether the government or individual parents should bear the primary responsibility of promoting healthy screen habits for children and infants, continues to unfold.

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  1. primary responsibility to Parent or child gaurdian,as well as the learnt people of the Sosiety and the government officials dseignated for the welfare of the Children and the Nation.

  2. While it is and should be the sole responsibility of the parent to monitor their child/children’s screen, unfortunately, not all parents have the maturity or capability to do so adequately. This ultimately invites the government into the lives of families, making decisions that may or may not always be considered best.

      1. It is the responsibility of the parents and caregivers to monitor their children activities and scrutinise what they watch with their tablets, phones, computers and TV. For a example, my little nephew goes on YouTube and watch programs that are above his age. Sometimes when he sees or hears his mom’s footsteps, he turned it off cos he’s being warned severally not to watch programs that are above his age. Having said this, parents and caregivers should pay attention to those little ones.

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