Too Much Screen Time? What to Know About Kids and iPhones

Too Much Screen Time? What to Know About Kids and iPhones

Technology has permeated our lives at home. The average U.S. household now has more than ten connected devices, including more than two computers and two mobile devices.

As children grow up surrounded by screens, it becomes an increasing challenge (and stressor) for parents to monitor device usage. But how much screen time is too much screen time? And how can parents battle their children’s pleas for additional screen time?

Parents wonder about the long-term effects of too much screen time. Too much screen time can, indeed, impact child development. Kids can become disengaged from the real world and depressed if they spend all of their time looking at a screen.

The key is finding a balance in the amount of screen time and the quality of the content. iPhones, along with other devices, have controls that can help parents monitor their child’s usage and online access.

Negative Impacts of Too Much Screen Time

Researchers are only beginning to study and understand the impacts of too much screen time on developing brains. A generation ago, households may have had TVs and a computer but were not nearly as connected as they are now.

What is known from a 2018 NIH study is that children who spent more than two hours per day on screens scored lower on tests for language and thinking. Children who spent more than seven hours per day in front of a screen were even more impacted. Their brain’s cortex – the part that controls critical thinking and reasoning – had thinned.

Right now, researchers are hypothesizing about the long-term impacts on the current generation. This is based on research and observations of children. Excessive screen time can have the following effects:

Early Childhood Development

Preschool-age children and younger learn by watching people around them and imitating their behavior. Too much time in front of a screen means less time experiencing everyday activities. If they observe their families or caregivers always looking down at a screen, they will not learn to look around and engage.


While children under two years old may appear to watch TV, they will not really learn anything. Language development occurs rapidly until about three years old, and most learning comes from talking and playing with others.

Children who watch a lot of TV in early elementary school do not do as well on reading tests. They also sometimes show signs of attention deficit. 


Dialogue is critical for developing communication and social skills. Conversation teaches children about facial expressions, body language, and reacting to another person. Screens are a “one-way” form of communication. Interacting with a screen involves more listening and lacks the conversation aspect that children need.

Depression and Anxiety

In older children, there is a strong correlation between excessive screen time and anxiety and depression. Spending too much time in front of a screen does not allow children to take mental breaks and have some time for quiet thinking or processing.

Interactions online can also lead to cyberbullying and feelings of isolation and low self-esteem. Kids replace real relationships with following social media personalities. This can result in spending less time in the real world and an inability to recognize emotions in others.

Positive Benefits of Screen Time for Kids

While too much screen time has a negative impact on childhood development, there are a lot of positives that can come from screen time as well, if it is moderated. Screen time can:

  • Support family interactions, such as FaceTime with family in another state
  • Encourage parent/child togetherness, such as playing games together or watching a movie
  • Include high-quality digital content, such as books
  • Promote school readiness through learning apps or games
  • Teach and improve problem-solving skills

Introducing and Monitoring Screens

Since screens have many positive benefits, it is important for parents to introduce screens at the right age and control how much time is spent in front of screens. Parents can model a healthy relationship with devices so that kids can carry the habits into adulthood.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children under 18 months. From 18 months to 2 years, high-quality content can be introduced in limited amounts. After age 2, a family should develop a “media plan” to follow in the household.

Parents should set a schedule for the time of day and how much screen time is allowed. They should also ensure that the child goes outside and participates in activities. The home should have “off-limit” areas for screens, such as the bedroom or kitchen table.

Parents also need to stay up-to-date on technology and other threats. New websites may provide access to inappropriate content, or your children may try to “experiment” as they age. Parental controls on devices allow parents to limit and monitor devices and block access to content if needed.

iPhone Parental Controls

The iPhone has many ways that you can control a child’s usage of the phone. You can set up the device as a “child device” and create a passcode to control the phone. In the Screen Time settings, you can set time limits, downtime, or app limits.

You can prevent purchases and downloads in the App Store, as well as restrict explicit content or content by rating. Adult websites can be blocked, or you can even set it up that only certain websites are allowed.

Reports will show you how much time your child is spending on an iPhone and with what activities. You can then make informed decisions about expanding privileges or restricting further.

Buying an iPhone for Your Kids

The best way to approach technology with children is to allow access to devices in a controlled manner. As children grow, you can give them more freedoms and responsibility for their own usage. Your children do not need to be products of too much screen time with a proactive approach.

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