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Reducing screen time

Keeping kids off screens is a challenge at the best of times and much harder when they are stuck at home. Our tip is to agree a daily screen time limit for all devices with a screen, such as TVs, computers, smart phones, laptops, tablets and game consoles. Try to stick to this as much as possible. 

How much screen time is okay?

  • Try to avoid screen time completely for under 2s
  • Try to keep screen time for 2-5 year old to 1 hour each day
  • For children over 5, have clear limits and a good guide is no more than two hours each day

Screens include all devices with a screen such as TVs, computers, smart phones, laptops, tablets and game consoles.

Daily screen time averages

Watch the video to find out how much time kids in the Republic of Ireland actually spend on their screens. Here is the breakdown for daily screen times for kids in Northern Ireland.

Getting started

First it’s best to figure out how much screen time is usual for your family. Committing to goals together as a family will really help. Be realistic. Don’t set yourself up for a fall. Aim for something specific, like keeping bedrooms or meal-times screen free, or aim to reduce screen time by half an hour each day, for example. Revisit your goals if they prove too much.

You may find our Play Pact a helpful way to get everyone on board. The Play Pact is our way for families to decide together that they are going to reduce daily screen time and be more active. To make a Play Pact fill in your family name and decide how much less time your family aims to spend on their phones and devices each day. Once that is agreed, get each family member to sign the Play Pact, or smaller kids can add a thumb print. You can then stick it on your fridge or somewhere visible as a reminder for the family.

A play pact certificate


Pause for play

Swap screen time for games you played where you were a kid. It’s a great way to everyone to get exercise and have a bit of fun.

And ask your children to teach you some the games they play on the playground!

Advice on limiting screen time

Make bedrooms a screen free zone so remove TVs, computers and all devices.

Set routine limits with your child(ren) on the amount and type of daily screen time – monitor it and stick to it. 

Children like to copy what others do so if you’re spending a lot of time on devices or screens, chances are they will want to do that too.

Have screen free times. Turn off the TV and devices while eating meals and maybe set other times as screen free that suit your family.

Having a location in the house where everyone leaves their devices / screens could make it easier to monitor devices.

Try to pick high quality programmes - those that have an educational element and don’t contain advertisements – particularly for little ones.

For younger children, watch TV or screen content with them so that they can learn while interacting with you.

With older children, talk to them about the risks of screen time and what is acceptable and unacceptable.

Watch the video

John Sharry: Children may argue that being on the computers, phones or TVs at night is quiet and relaxing, but research shows the contrary. Screens actually agitate them at night, and prevent them form getting in to a good habit of sleep.


© The Food Safety Promotion Board