Limiting Screen Time Is Good Advice for Parents Too

New research shows that mobile devices can lead to distracted parenting.

Posted Apr 24, 2019

The World Health Organization released new guidelines today to ensure that children grow up healthy. The guidelines are designed to encourage activities and behaviors that have a positive impact on a child’s development and help prevent illness and obesity later in life.

Trendsetter Images/Shutterstock
Source: Trendsetter Images/Shutterstock

Overall, the new guidelines recommend more physical activity and interactive play, getting adequate sleep, and spending less time sitting or being restrained from moving around. The guidelines also stress the importance of limiting screen time.

For healthy development, no screen time is recommended for infants under the age of two. For two-to-four-year-olds, sitting in front of a screen should be limited to less than one hour per day.

While the new guidelines focus on the importance of limiting children's time in front of a screen, new research suggests that parents would be wise to follow the same advice when they are with their kids.

Research on smartphone usage and parenting shows that when parents use their mobile devices, they are less attentive to their kids and experience less intimacy and closeness with their children. These results were discovered in both naturalistic settings (at home) and during an experiment at a museum where parents were either encouraged to use their phones or asked to put them away.

A recent review of research on distracted parenting also found that parents who are on their mobile devices are less sensitive and responsive to their children’s requests for attention. These findings are worth noting because some of the most valuable resources a parent can give their children is their time and attention. At a young age, children are sensitive to whether their parents are being attentive and responsive to their needs.

How parents interact with their children can have a critical impact on a child’s sense of well-being and emotional development. Children who consistently feel valued, loved, and cared for at a young age are more likely to grow up with a sense of confidence and security. Such children are also better at managing their emotions and relationships as adults.

The takeaway message: In terms of healthy development, limited screen time is not only good for children, but also for parents who are trying to spend time with their kids.


Kushlev, K., & Dunn, E. W. (2018). Smartphones distract parents from cultivating feelings of connection when spending time with their children. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 36, 1619-1639.

Kildare, C. A., & Middlemiss, W. (2017). Impact of parents mobile device use on parent-child interaction: A literature review. Computers in Human Behavior, 75, 579-593.