Know Their Limits – How Much Screen Time For Kids?

Are you worried that your children are becoming addicted to their screens? In this world of ever evolving technology, it’s always a challenge to ensure that our children have the tech skills that they need, without allowing them to spend too much time on the myriad of apps and games that they love.

We have spoken to leading Hong Kong based psychologist Dr. Quratulain Zaidi, who has put together some general guidelines for each age group.   These are by no means definitive lists — the digital world is moving far too quickly for that. However, they’re a good starting point, and can be adjusted or adapted to better suit the needs of your family.

Essential Parenting Checklist

5 to 7 years

Recommended screen time for this age group is less than 30 minutes a day.

  • Set firm boundaries, such as daily screen time limits and STICK to them.
  • Keep devices out of reach and make sure they have passwords and PINs. This includes your phone, tablet, computer and digital TV remote.
  • Check the age ratings and descriptions on apps, games, online TV and films before downloading them for your child.
  • Be consistent. Explain rules to grandparents, helpers, parents of your child’s friends. Your house, your rules.
  • Set the homepage on your family computer or tablet to an appropriate website.
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More useful information here.

8 to 9 years

Recommended screen time for this age group is less than 1 hour a day.

  • Create a user account for your child on the family computer with appropriate settings and make the most of Parental Controls and tools like Google SafeSearch.
  • Set a list of websites they’re allowed to visit.
  • Teach them to be private. Tell them what kind of personal information they should not reveal about themselves online. This includes their name, age, school name and address.
  • Set time limits for internet use and playing on games consoles and STICK to them.
  • Use a Family Internet Use Agreement.  This is especially important if there are older siblings. Be aware of what older siblings might be showing them on the internet, mobiles, games consoles, and other devices.
  • Ignore pressure by your child, their friends, or other parents to allow use of certain technologies or games e.g. a mobile phone or Minecraft. You are the parent, and you know your child and family best.
  • Understand age ratings and descriptions on games, online TV, films and apps, so that you can be sure your child is only accessing age-appropriate content.

Useful information here and here.

10 to 12 years

Recommended screen time for this age group is less than 1.5 hours a day.

  • Set digital use boundaries before they get their first mobile or game console. Once they have it in their hands, it will be more difficult to change the way they use it.
  • Set clear expectations for online behaviour. Use a Family Internet Use Agreement.
  • Discuss responsible online behaviour and what they can post and share online. Remind them that written comments, photos, and videos all form part of their ‘digital footprint’. These could be seen by anyone and may be available on the Web forever. Remind them they shouldn’t do anything online that they wouldn’t do face-to-face.
  • Discuss the kind of things they may see online. This is the age when they might be looking for information about their changing bodies and exploring relationships.
  • No services like Facebook and YouTube for children under the age of 13 years. Resist societal pressure to sign them up.
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Useful information here and here.

13+ years

Recommended screen time for this age group is less than 2hrs a day.

  • Review boundaries and expectations, and revisit your Family Internet Use Agreement. Teens need more parental guidance.
  • Talk to your teen. This is vulnerable time for teens they are exploring identity issues and can come across inaccurate or dangerous information specially related to body image. Keep lines of communication open.
  • Discuss legal and ethical issues. Teens need to understand what plagiarism and academic dishonesty mean, as well issues like illegal downloading.
  • Adjust the settings on Parental Controls in line with your child’s age and maturity and if they ask you to turn them off completely, think carefully before you do so.
  • Monitor their time and activities online.

Useful information here.

This is a guide, but we all know that some days children will spend a little more time than we would like on their screens. The crucial point is to be consistent, have boundaries and limits to encourage your child to benefit from all of the wonderful technology at their fingertips, without allowing them to become overly reliant.

Quratulain Zaidi MindNLife Hong Kong


About Dr Quratulain Zaidi:

From the UK, Dr. Zaidi has been living and working in Hong Kong and Singapore for the past twelve years. A graduate of King’s College, London and with a PhD. from Cardiff University, she held various post-doctoral positions in the UK before founding her practise in Asia. Her clients include families, adolescents, children, educators and executives and she uses proven therapeutic techniques to help clients overcome personal barriers to growth. To find out more, visit MindNLife, call 6347 9955 or email Dr. Zaidi:

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Dr. Zaidi is a member of the British Psychological Society and British Association Counselling & Psychotherapy and abides by the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychology. All fees are based on the recommendations of the International Psychological Societies.


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