Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 2: Program Activities for Healthy Development

2.2 Supervision and Discipline

2.2.0 Screen Time/Digital Media Use

Frequently Asked Questions/CFOC Clarifications


Date: 03/08/2012

Topic & Location:
Chapter 2
Program Activities
Standard Limiting Screen Time - Media, Computer Time

This standard states that children two years and older in early care and education settings should not be exposed to more than thirty minutes per week of screen time and that computer use should be limited to no more than fifteen minute increments.

Is the fifteen minute increment for computer use included in the total screen time of thirty minutes per week?


Content in the STANDARD was modified on 10/12/2017.

Please note: For the purposes of this standard “screen time/digital media” refers to media content viewed on cell/mobile phone, tablet, computer, television (TV), video, film, and DVD. It does not include video-chatting with family.
Screen time/digital media should not be used with children ages 2 and younger in early care and education settings. For children ages 2 to 5 years, total exposure (in early care and education and at home combined) to digital media should be limited to 1 hour per day of high-quality programming [1], and viewed with an adult who can help them apply what they are learning to the world around them (1).
Children ages 5 and older may need to use digital media in early care and education to complete homework. However, caregivers/teachers should ensure that entertainment media time does not displace healthy activities such as exercise, refreshing sleep, and family time, including meals.
For children of all ages, digital media and devices should not be used during meal or snack time, or during nap/rest times and in bed. Devices should be turned off at least one hour before bedtime. When offered, digital media should be free of advertising and brand placement, violence, and sounds that tempt children to overuse the product. 
Caregivers/teachers should communicate with parents/guardians about their guidelines for home media use. Caregivers/teachers should take this information into consideration when planning the amount of media use at the child care program to help in meeting daily recommendations (1).
Programs should prioritize physical activity and increased personal social interactions and engagement during the program day. It is important for young children to have active social interactions with adults and children. Media use can distract children (and adults), limit conversations and play, and reduce healthy physical activity, increasing the risk for overweight and obesity. Media should be turned off when not in use since background media can be distracting, and reduce social engagement and learning. Overuse of media can also be associated with problems with behavior, limit-setting, and emotional and behavioral self-regulation; therefore, caregivers/teachers should avoid using media to calm a child down (1).
Note: The guidance above should not limit digital media use for children with special health care needs who require and consistently use assistive and adaptive computer technology (2). However, the same guidelines apply for entertainment media use. Consultation with an expert in assistive communication may be necessary. 

[1] designed with child psychologists and educators to meet specific educational goals

The first two years of life are critical periods of growth and development for children’s brains and bodies, and rapid brain development continues through the early childhood years. To best develop their cognitive, language, motor, and social-emotional skills, infants and toddlers need hands-on exploration and social interaction with trusted caregivers (1). Digital media viewing do not promote such skills development as well as “real life”.
Excessive media use has been associated with lags in achievement of knowledge and skills, as well as negative impacts on sleep, weight, and social/emotional health. (1). For example, among 2-year-olds, research has shown that body mass index (BMI) increases with greater weekly media consumption (3).

Digital media is not without benefits, including learning from high-quality content, creative engagement, and social interactions. However, especially in young children, real-life social interactions promote greater learning and retention of knowledge and skills.  When limited digital media are used, co-viewing and co-teaching with an engaged adult promotes more effective learning and development. 

Because children may use digital media before and after attending early care and education settings, limiting digital media use in early care and education settings and substituting developmentally appropriate play and other hands-on activities can better promote learning and skills development. Such an activity is reading. Caregivers/teachers should begin reading to children at infancy (4) and facilities should make age-appropriate books available for each cognitive stage of development that can be co-read and discussed with an adult. See the American Academy of Pediatrics’ “Books Build Connections Toolkit” at for more information.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has developed a Family Media Use Plan tool, available at, which can help parents/guardians, caregivers, and families identify healthy activities for each child, and prioritize them ahead of limited digital media use (5). 

Caregivers/teachers serve as role models for children in early care and education settings by not using or being distracted by digital media during care hours. In addition, if adults view media such as news in the presence of children, children may be exposed to inappropriate language or violent or frightening images that can cause emotional upset or increase aggressive thoughts and behavior. Caregivers/teachers should be discouraged from using digital media for personal use while actively engaging with and supervising the children in their care. Instead, opportunities for collaborative activities are preferred.

It is important to safeguard privacy for children on the internet and digital media.  Pictures and videos of children should never be posted on social media without parent/guardian consent. Caregivers/teachers should know and follow their program’s policy for taking, sharing, or posting pictures and videos. 


American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Communications and Media. Children and adolescents and digital media. Pediatrics. 2016;138(5): e20162593.
American Academy of Pediatrics. Media and children communication toolkit. Web site. Accessed October 12, 2017. 
Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. Web site. Accessed October 12, 2017. 
Common Sense Education. Web site. Accessed October 12, 2017. 
Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College. How am I doing? A checklist for identifying exemplary uses of technology and interactive media for early learning. Web site. Updated February 25, 2014. Accessed October 12, 2017. 
National Association for the Education of Young Children. Technology and interactive media as tools in early childhood programs serving children from birth through age 8. Position Statement. Web site. 2012. Accessed October 12, 2017.  

Center, Early Head Start, Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
RELATED STANDARDS Personal Caregiver/Teacher Relationships for Infants and Toddlers Personal Caregiver/Teacher Relationships for Three- to Five-Year-Olds Developing Relationships for School-Age Children Methods of Supervision of Children Active Opportunities for Physical Activity
Appendix S: Physical Activity: How Much Is Needed?
  1. American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Communications and Media. Media and young minds. Pediatrics. 2016;138(5):e20162591. 
  2. Reid CY, Radesky J, Christakis D, et al., American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Communications and Media. Children and adolescents and digital media. Pediatrics. 2016;138(5):e2016593.
  3. Wen LM, Baur LA, Rissel C, Xu H, Simpson, JM. Correlates of body mass index and overweight and obesity of children aged 2 years: finding from the healthy beginnings trial. Obesity. 2014;22(7):1723-1730.
  4. American Academy of Pediatrics. Council on Early Childhood. Literacy promotion: an essential component of primary care pediatric practice. Pediatrics. 2014;134(2):1-6.
  5. American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Communications and Media. Media use in school-aged children and adolescents. Pediatrics. 2016;138(5):e20162592.

Content in the STANDARD was modified on 10/12/2017.