Why Is Managing Screen Time So Important?

Screen time is any time spent looking at or using digital devices like phones, computers, or televisions. If that sounds like most of a child’s day, we might want to turn those screens off. Instead, according to recommendations by the Centre for Holistic Initiatives for Learning and Development (CHILD) in Singapore, drawing on evidence from Growing Up in Singapore Towards Healthy Outcomes (GUSTO) and similar research studies – screen time in young children should be replaced by age-appropriate physical activity, playtime, as well as social and interactive opportunities with peers, parents, and caregivers.

Various studies have found associations between excessive screen time in preschool age children and reductions in physical activity, poor sleep, poor eating habits, myopia, language delays, and poor social development1,2. Additionally, in a GUSTO research study3 involving 506 infants, researchers found that attention problems increased as the duration of the infants’ screen time increased. These measured attention deficits and effects continued even after the child reached eight years old. This means that screen viewing in very young children negatively affects their attention span in the long term.

How Can I Develop Healthy Screen Time Habits for My Child?

It’s easy as ABC! With these tips, you’re well on your way to developing healthy screen use for your child.

Active Screen Time
Get Your Child Thinking and Talking

Active screen time means your child thinks about and engages with what is happening on screen. Co-watch with your child and discuss what you are watching to engage him/her and let them practise communication skills.

Avoid using screens in the background during mealtimes, as this is not active screen time. Additionally, avoid using screens at least 1 hour before bedtime so your child can fall asleep more easily.

Balance Screen Time With Other Activities
Mix It Up, Interact and Bond With Your Child

Balance screen time with other activities like reading, drawing and colouring, or playing with physical toys. Make sure your child takes frequent eye breaks, and go enjoy some outdoor time together.

This gives you lots more opportunities to interact and bond with your child, and also helps them develop the habit of finding different activities to engage themselves instead of only seeking out screen time to occupy their time.

Check out the MOH Screen Time Advisory for how much screen time is recommended for different age groups!

Collaborate With Your Child
Take Some Time To Plan Your Child’s Time

Collaborate with your child and create a timetable to strike that healthy balance between screen time and other activities like physical activities and sleep. Work together to keep your child on track with the timetable.

If your child becomes upset about not having screen time, be understanding but do not give in. Find out how to break their screen time habits here!

You Are Your Child’s Role Model

Finally, remember that you are your child’s role model! Practise good screen time habits yourself so your child can follow your good example and model a healthy relationship with digital devices and screens. You’ve got this!

This article is written in collaboration with Adjunct Associate Professor Chong Shang Chee, Head & Senior Consultant, Child Development Unit, Khoo Teck Puat – National University Children’s Medical Institute, National University Hospital; Deputy Director, Centre for Holistic Initiatives for Learning and Development (CHILD), Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine National University of Singapore. Adj A/Prof Chong is part of the Child and Maternal Health and Well-being Taskforce and co-chaired the advisory group on “Guidance on Screen Use in Children”, led by the Ministry of Health.


1. Centre for Holistic Initiatives for Learning and Development (2021). Impact of Screen Viewing during Early Years on Cognitive Development (Evidence Insight). Retrieved from https://thechild.sg/resources-publications/

2. Ministry of Health. (n.d.). Evidence review of screen use in childhood - ministry of health. https://www.moh.gov.sg/docs/librariesprovider5/resources-statistics/educational-resources/annex---evidence-review-of-screen-use-in-childhood-(1).pdf

3. Law EC, Han MX, Lai Z, Lim S, Ong ZY, Ng V, Gabard-Durnam LJ, Wilkinson CL, Levin AR, Rifkin-Graboi A, Daniel LM, Gluckman PD, Chong YS, Meaney MJ, Nelson CA. Associations Between Infant Screen Use, Electroencephalography Markers, and Cognitive Outcomes. JAMA Pediatr. 2023 Mar 1;177(3):311-318. doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2022.5674. PMID: 36716016; PMCID: PMC9887532.