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Is 12 hours of screen time normal?

With the rise of smartphones, tablets, computers, and TVs, screen time has dramatically increased over the past decade. Many adults and kids alike are spending hours each day staring at screens. But how much is too much? Is 12 hours of screen time per day within the range of normal or problematic?

How much screen time is average?

Recent surveys and studies have looked at daily screen time among various age groups to determine averages and norms. Here are some of the key findings on the normal or typical amounts of daily screen time:


  • Preschool-age children (ages 3-5): about 2 hours of screen time per day.
  • School-age children (ages 6-12): about 4 or 5 hours of screen time per day.
  • Teens (ages 13-18): about 7-8 hours per day.


  • Adults (18 and over): about 6-8 hours of screen time per day on average.
  • One survey found the average adult spends over 11 hours per day on screens.

Based on these figures, 12 hours of screen time is well above average for children and moderately high for teens and adults.

Potential risks and effects of excessive screen time

While no definitive threshold has been scientifically established, many experts consider anything exceeding 2 hours per day of recreational screen time to be potentially problematic, especially for younger children. Excessive screen time has been associated with the following risks and effects:

Physical health and development

  • Obesity and weight gain
  • Irregular sleep patterns and poorer sleep quality
  • Eye strain and potential vision problems
  • Musculoskeletal issues like neck, shoulder and back pain

Mental health and cognition

  • Depression and anxiety
  • ADHD-like symptoms such as inattention and hyperactivity
  • Impaired learning, memory and reduced academic performance
  • Reduced social skills and empathy

Other risks

  • Exposure to harmful content like violence, cyberbullying, etc.
  • Compulsive internet use and video game addiction
  • Lack of exercise or time spent on other hobbies

Spending 6 hours or more recreational screen time per day is associated with greater risks, hence the concerns around routine screen use of 12+ hours per day.

How does 12+ hours compare to screen time guidelines?

Many health organizations have published screen time guidelines that make clear recommendations around limiting daily screen time:

Organization Screen Time Recommendations
American Academy of Pediatrics No screens other than video-chatting for children under 18 months, 1 hour/day of high-quality programs for ages 2-5, consistent limits on all screen time for older children
WHO No screens under 1, no more than 1 hour per day ages 2-4, less than 2 hours per day ages 5-17
Canadian Pediatric Society No screens under 2, less than 1 hour per day ages 2-5, less than 2 hours per day ages 5-17

Based on these expert guidelines, 12 hours would be considered extremely excessive, far surpassing the recommended limits for all ages. This level of screen time far exceeds what is considered healthy and appropriate.

Risk factors for excessive screen time

Certain factors can put a child or adult at increased likelihood of high amounts of daily screen time and potential technology addiction or compulsive behavior.

Individual factors

  • ADHD or existing attention difficulties
  • Symptoms of depression or anxiety
  • Impulsivity and problems self-regulating
  • Special needs and developmental disorders
  • Obsessive interests and compulsive tendencies

Family and home factors

  • Lower parental supervision and limits on tech use
  • Frequent reliance on devices for babysitting kids
  • Parent overuse of devices themselves
  • Higher household income and number of devices
  • Less emphasis on physical activity and family connection time

Kids and adults with certain traits or in high-risk environments can be prone to falling into excessive and potentially addictive patterns of screen media use. Careful monitoring, guidance and limits are important.

Signs of problematic technology overuse

How can you tell when someone’s screen time has become excessive or addictive? Here are some red flags:

  • Preoccupation with gaming, social media or internet use
  • Unable to limit or stop screen time voluntarily
  • Craving device use when away from screens
  • Prioritizing devices over real life activities
  • Using screens to improve mood or relieve stress
  • Agitation when not on devices or limited access
  • Lying about screen time or sneaking device use
  • Withdrawing from family, friends and hobbies
  • Declining academic or work performance
  • Fatigue, weight changes and headaches
  • Disruption to sleep and hygiene habits

These issues indicate when technology has become a dominating compulsion rather than a balanced enjoyment. Professional help may be needed.

Tips for managing screen time

For those concerned about their own or their child’s screen habits, here are some tips that may help:

  • Set a firm daily time limit based on child’s age and stick to it
  • Designate tech-free zones like bedrooms and dinner table
  • Remove devices during homework or classwork times
  • Engage in fun activities and hobbies that don’t involve screens
  • Avoid using devices as pacifiers or to calm kids
  • Set parental controls on devices and enable time limits
  • Be a good role model and manage your own tech use
  • Emphasize and make time for family connection


Excessive screen time is a growing public health concern, especially for children immersed in digital media from a young age. While definitions vary, 12+ hours of daily screen time far exceeds expert recommendations and raises risks of obesity, sleep deprivation,attention disorders, social issues and more. Careful limits, supervision, and emphasis on non-digital activities are keys to ensuring technology use does not become compulsive and harmful, especially for vulnerable individuals.