Screen Time through an OT lens

Screen time is a topic that makes any parent feel guilty. In this modern era it is impossible to completely avoid screen time, but let’s investigate the effects of screen time and how to implement screen time in an effective way. Remember screen time includes tablets, TV and cellphones. 

The following duration of screen time is suggested by experts:

  • 0-18 months: Children should not be exposed to screen time except to video call grandparents, parents or family members.
  • 19-24 months: Focus should be on more educational programs where the parent and child can play along e.g. youtube video showing how animals walk and that you can copy. 
  • 2-5 years: Screen time should be capped at an hour a day and under three hours during the weekend. Remember screen time includes tablets, TV and cell phones.
  • 6 years and up: Less than 2 hours per weekday.

The effects of screen time on our sensory systems:

  • Screen times expose children to large amounts of visual and auditory (sound input). This often results in a child (especially a sensitive child) becoming overstimulated by the amount of input that they are experiencing. This would result in concentration, sleeping and emotional difficulties (tantrums, tears and meltdowns). 
  • The above mentioned would also result in a child experiencing difficulty regulating before bedtime which could cause difficulties falling asleep or sleeping restfully. 
  • Screen time is a 2D activity, so even if programmes are educational, this is often not encouraging learning in the correct way. Children first need to learn with their bodies and then on a 3D level (blocks, building etc) and then only 2D level. 
  • Due to children being sedentary during screen time activities this often affects their vestibular (movement) and proprioception (muscle) system. This results in gross-motor difficulties, ball skill difficulties and postural difficulties. 
  • Difficulties with problem solving and planning. Children are seldom expected to problem solve, plan and sequence actions or activities during screen time. If this is not practiced children experience difficulty with this which may affect them socially or result in frustration when unable to be successful in an activity.

How to promote effective screen time usage? 

  • Choose shows and programs that are more educational and with less sensory input. Visual images should be slower and noises more natural. 
  • Ensure that your child regulates after watching TV and do not use screen time as a regulation technique. 
  • Encourage active movement during screen time as mentioned above. 
  • Use parental controls to monitor what your child is watching and how much time is spent. 
  • Encourage the child to form their own ideas to play rather than watching TV e.g. why don’t you build a hideout and then we can watch TV in your hideout.

Remember that we cannot avoid screen time in this modern era but we can encourage healthy screen time habits.

Written by Ashley Brecher (Jones), Bright Eyes Therapy. 

For more information you are welcome to contact us on 0836161662 or email us at

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