According to a pediatrics journal, the use of screen time sharply increases between 12 months and three years in the United States and most Canadian preschoolers between the ages of two and three. This falls short of the World Health Organisation’s recommendations for the appropriate use of television, computers and other screens, which is recommended at no more than 60 minutes for toddlers daily between two to four years of age.

The study reveals that screen habits begin early as children who grew up with an increased level of screen exposure persisted with high screen usage in later years. Furthermore, it was found that a child’s overuse of screens is associated with the excessive screen use of the caretaker, especially for those who spend the most time with their children. 

Therefore, early screen intervention increases the success of reducing screen time for children. Such intervention must comprise a holistic family screen usage policy so that children can enjoy device-free interactions and see that their parents or caregivers are not hooked to their screens as well.

Read the full article on CNN: Explosive growth in screen use by toddlers, studies say


While it can be very tempting to placate a misbehaving child with a YouTube video or some other app, we must be mindful of the child’s developmental needs. The use of screen and media should be carefully curated so as to prioritise the proper development of the child. Videos and even educational games should not take the place of the parent or caretaker.

Proper child development requires device-free interactions, particularly face-to-face interactions with other members of the family. The current recommendations for screen usage are that caretakers interact with the children about the content on the screen, rather than just passively allowing the consumption of media. It is found that screen addiction across all ages leads to problems with sleep, a lack of exercise and a short attention span.

A successful intervention to reduce screen time for children must also be modeled by the parents and caretakers. Families would have to determine together how best to use screens and to create intentional pockets of time for offline interactions. It cannot simply be something imposed by parents without simultaneously being adhered to by the parents themselves.

Questions for further personal evaluation: 

  1. What was your first exposure to screens? Was there a screen usage policy in your home growing up?  If so, how was it and was it effective?
  2. Do you think toddlers in Singapore are struggling with screen exposure? Why or why not?

Useful vocabulary: 

  1. ‘curated’: selected, organised and presented
  2. ‘pediatric’: relating to the branch of medicine dealing with children and their diseases