How Much Screen Time is Too Much? Toddlers are Spending 25 Days a Year Streaming TV

family netflix too much tv

There’s no doubt that the big three streaming services, Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu, are all interlocked in a battle for parental loyalty.

Each service is proactively fighting for the almighty eyeballs of our youngest and most impressionable. If each time our child goes to watch their favorite TV show, they’re dazzled with the bright red Netflix logo, then that brand experience likely remains with them their entire lives. Netflix and television quickly become synonyms to these young consumers.

And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, right? Netflix saves us from over 130 hours of commercials a year, and in that also saves our children from similar intrusive advertising. The last thing any parent wants while their kids are watching TV is a bombardment of commercials for sugary cereal and trendy toys.

But are we too loose with how frequently we hand our kids the iPad, letting them stream away? As a new father of two myself I wanted some answers. Here’s what we found:

Toddlers on average are spending more than 25 days a year streaming TV

We compiled some data from a variety of academic papers to try and figure out just how much time our children are spending each day streaming TV and movies, and more importantly if that’s too much. After conducting our own analysis, here is what we found:

  • The average teenager spends just under three hours a day streaming videos on phones, tablets, and set top boxes. This is 41% of their entertainment consumption. This ends up being over 45 days a year of streaming TV consumption.
  • The average 2-5 year old is spending 1.8 hours a day consuming streaming content via Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and other similar services.
  • This is a 54% increase over the past 10 years in daily consumption.
  • Toddlers on average are spending 25+ days a year streaming TV.

daily streaming tv consumption

What about the health risks?

  • There is no scientific consensus after the age of eight regarding moderate television consumption having any adverse effects on development. But no more than two hours of daily screen time is recommended.
  • Too much streaming has proven, just like television, to cause obesity. For every hour of screen time, the average child consumes 167 extra calories.
  • The best way to ensure all this TV doesn’t affect your kids is apparently to teach them from a young age that television is solely entertainment to prevent reality distortion.
  • Children under the age of three who stare at screens see negative effects on sleep patterns.


Selected Research on Screen Time and Children

What is Media Literacy and Why is It Important for Kids

While a lot of these shows and movies available on streaming services try to sell themselves as educational, the jury is still out as to whether or not a few hours of streaming TV a day is a good thing. As any parent can say, it’s a far better feeling to know that their young children are in a more controlled setting when it comes to TV viewership with no commercials and parental controls. There are also plenty of educational options, and some programs have been shown to teach children as well as traditional preschool does.

But at the end of the day, if a child is spending nearly 3-4 hours glued to their phones, tablets and TV sets streaming Netflix, is that taking valuable time away from playing outside? Or perhaps reading? Every parent needs to decide what’s right for their family. Right now, there is no correct answer so common sense must prevail.

Are you a parent? How much time do you let your kids stream movies and TV shows on services like Netflix? Let us know in the comments below.