Is your kids’ screen time really as low as you think? Mine wasn’t.

Last week I read a study that stopped me in my tracks. Turns out that American kids, on average, spend 15 times more time watching Netflix–just Netflix–than they do playing outdoors in a day. 108 minutes, to be exact. That’s almost two full hours a day of just Netflix. There’s other screen time to consider, too, the video games and school time on computers. That’s a lot of time in front of a screen.

I got on my high horse for a bit, even posted about it on the blog Facebook page. I’m pretty draconian about screen time, just because I get annoyed by kids staring blankly, so I felt like we were likely far below that with our own kids. Then I started doing the math. Here’s how it breaks down.

They usually only get one show a night on Netflix. Because I cook dinner during this time, I know exactly how long that takes: 23 minutes. (If anyone would like my list of 23-minute dinner ideas, please let me know. It’s surprisingly comprehensive.) They also get two shows on Sunday evenings as a special treat and because things in our house start going a bit sideways by 5 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. And we watch a movie as a family on Friday nights, which is usually about 120 minutes of Netflix watching.

So now we are at… hold on…23 times 5 plus 46 plus 120 divided by 7 equals an average of 43 Netflix minutes per day. Well below 108. Great.

kids and screen time

But what about the other screen time?

Typically, we allow 15 minutes a day per kid for video games on the shared family tablet. They tend to watch each other play, so that’s really 30 minutes of screen time each. Now we are up to 76 minutes.

But wait! There’s still more!

This fall has been a hectic time in our house. My husband coached a local sports team, so my kids have been spending a chunk of time inside a gym each afternoon while waiting for me to pick them up. They run around and play while waiting for practice to start, but once things get rolling they tend to settle down with the tablet to keep them occupied and out from underfoot. Adding in that extra bonus time, that’s more like an hour of screen time each afternoon than 30 minutes. And sometimes I let them finish their game in the car on the way home.

So if I use that number? My kids are up to at least 106 minutes a day, which looks an awful lot like 108. And just about all of it is in the 2 1/2 hour stretch between when school ends and when we eat dinner. Those are prime hours to play outside–really the only time to play outside this time of year–and they are almost all eaten up by video games and Netflix. In fact, their outside time these days during the week? Almost zero. Which makes our screen to outdoors ratio something like 108 to 5.

My high horse is, it turns out, a little Shetland pony.

It’s safe to say that things have gotten a little out of hand at my house. But the good news is that coaching is over for the year, so the kids will be home after school. A change in routine is a great time to shake up things up, so we’ll have to see if we can encourage more outside play. I’ll be thinking about how to do that, but in the meantime: make me feel better. Do your own math.

How much screen time are your kids really getting?

Cherie Galyean

About Cherie Galyean

In a perfect world, Cherie Galyean would spend hours every day chasing her kids up hiking trails, pretending to garden, and baking things. Instead, she works full-time in the non-profit sector and fits those other things in-between loads of laundry in her free time. A Maine native with multiple hometowns, she currently lives on Mount Desert Island with her husband, seven-year-old daughter, five-year-old son, and the best shelter mutt in the world.