31 popular girl names + their beautiful meanings

From Olivia to Charlotte and beyond, here are some of the most popular girl names today and their meanings.

31 popular girl names + their beautiful meanings

When baby name trend trackers write about the top names of the twenty-first century, their job gets pretty easy when it comes to the top girl names. The list of popular girl names has remained surprisingly stable in the past two decades.

No dark horses, no surprises—just tried and true classic girl names like Amelia and Charlotte vying for the top alongside "newer" more modern names like Arya and Isla. So whether choosing a popular girl name tops your list of pregnancy to do's or you plan to wait until you meet your little one to choose her name, when the decision is made it will feel so right that you'll wonder how you could ever have considered anything else.

Here are some of the most popular girl names today and what they mean.


Harper

Of English origin meaning "harp player", it's hard not to think of Harper Lee when you hear this name. The "To Kill a Mockingbird" author brought this family name into the public consciousness in the 1960s. Flash forward to 2015 when it first entered the Top 10 girls name lists, and it has stayed there ever since (it didn't hurt when Victoria and David Beckham named their little girl Harper in 2011).

Avery

While seen most often as a girls' name, Avery is actually a really lovely unisex name as well. Meaning "ruler of the elves", this sprite-like name originated in the Middle Ages and is of English and French origin. While it's been floating around for the past several decades, the name has increased in popularity in recent years, as it provides a fresh alternative to uber-popular Ava.

Camila

An exotic name growing in popularity, Camila is derived from Latin, meaning "young ceremonial attendant". The Spanish Camila name is pronounced ka-MEE-la, not to be confused with the British version, Camilla, ka-MIL-la. If you are a fan of pop music, you're likely know Camila Cabello, who used her first name for her debut album. Camila also has the added bonus of a great nickname build in: Mila.

Amelia/Emilia

Amelia is a German name that means "hard working." The Germanic root of this delicate and pretty name, amal, means "work," and is suggestive of fertility and productivity. Parents inspired by the determination and adventurousness of Amelia Earhart love the name Amelia for their daughters. My daughter's name is Amelia, but we actually came about it in a funny way. My husband and I both liked the nickname "Millie" and looked for a proper name that used it as a nickname. Vetoing Millicent and Mildred, we saw Amelia was next on the list and loved it!

Charlotte

Charlotte is a French name signifying "freedom," and the feminine form of the name Charles, which means "a free man." Charlotte has been the name of queens, princesses, authors (most famously, Charlotte Bronte) and a certain beloved, wise spider from the classic E.B. White novel for young readers, Charlotte's Web.

After a lengthy period in which Charlotte was relatively underused as a girls' name, she leapt into the Top 10 in the early 2010s and is currently at #6 in popularity, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA) as of 2019.

Aurora

Of Latin origin meaning "dawn", Aurora was the name of the Roman goddess of sunrise. Perhaps your child will be an early riser with this name? Aurora is also associated with the Northern Lights, otherwise known as the Aurora Borealis, as well as the enchanting princess from Disney's Sleeping Beauty. Between a goddess, princess and gorgeous natural phenomenon, it's hard to go wrong with this one.

Violet

The name Violet's popularity has slowly risen over the years, finally cracking the top 50 list for the first time in 2015. A celebrity favorite, Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck chose the name Violet for their first child. Meaning "purple" and of English origin, it's one of the prettier flower-themed names out there, and the color purple itself has been associated with royalty for centuries. While I do tend to think of Violet Beauregarde from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (who wasn't the sweetest of characters), I can see why this pretty name has climbed in popularity over the years.

Olivia/Alivia

Olivia is a girls' name of Latin origin meaning "olive tree," an ancient symbol of friendship and peace. As Nameberry notes, Olivia first rose to prominence as a girls' name in the 14th century when Shakespeare used it for one of the heroines of Twelfth Night. Olivia is currently the #1 girls' name in the U.S. (according to the SSA as of 2019) and is popular in other countries as well, including parts of Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Olivia is a strong, feminine name with sweet nicknames like Livvie and Liv, and a host of famous namesakes (actress Olivia Wilde comes to mind).

Ava

Ava is a girls' name of Latin origin that means "life." Ava is a name associated with elegance and charm, and has been chosen by a number of celebrity parents for their daughters, from Reese Witherspoon to Hugh Jackman.

Ava shot straight into the top 5 names for girls in the 2010s from relative obscurity (despite Ava Gardner, a famous actress in the 1940s and 50s) and shows no sign of slowing down—it is currently ranked as #3 girls' name and is predicted to land the #1 spot before the end of the 2020s.

Aria/Arya

The name Aria is a girl's name of Hebrew (meaning lion) and Italian (meaning air, song or melody) origin. For the musically inclined, I definitely think most of Aria's literal meaning, air, which is a musical term denoting a kind of song or melody in opera. Aria first entered the scene in 2000 and has risen steadily in popularity over the years. Game of Thrones fans will be particularly interested in the name, thanks to the young heroine Arya Stark.

Luna

The name Luna means "moon" and is of Italian origin, stemming from the Roman goddess of the moon. Luna is often depicted driving a chariot in Roman art, and is a popular name for fans of Harry Potter who may be influenced by the character, Luna Lovegood. While this may seem like a more "new age" name, Luna has actually been around since the turn of the 20th century. Often ranked number one on Nameberry internal charts, it has a solid place in the top 20 most popular girl names. So popular, in fact, that celebrities like Chrissy Teigen and John Legend, and Penelope Cruz and Javier Barden picked Luna for their little girls.

Isla

Of Spanish and Scottish origin, the name Isla means "island" in Spanish. This top girls name is part of a growing trend of classic, old-fashioned names and is also popular in Europe, particularly England, Wales and Scotland. You may think of the actress Isla Fisher, too? Names that end in "a" tend to be popular: Ava, Ada, Ella, Emma… the list goes on!

Hazel

The name Hazel is a girl's name of English origin meaning "the hazelnut tree". I think it's fair to say Julia Roberts helped bring this old-fashioned name back into popularity when she named one of her twins Hazel in 2004, and it has maintained a place on popularity lists ever since. Most recently, Emily Blunt and John Krasinski named one of their daughters Hazel. This botanical and nature-inspired name is really quite pretty. And while it can be found in literature periodically, the most influential Hazel of recent years is the heroine of John Green's Fault in Our Stars.

Scarlett

This may seem obvious, but the name Scarlett means "red" and is of English origin. According to Nameberry, the word is thought to derive from the Arabic siklāt, referring to silks dyed with kermes. Among them, the fanciest color was scarlet red. Scarlett is also one of the most popular girls' names starting with S, right up there with Saylor and Savannah. While some might immediately think of Scarlett O'Hara from the movie Gone With the Wind, these days actress Scarlett Johansson is top of mind.

Maeve

A popular name in Ireland and now in the United States, Maeve means "she who intoxicates". The name appears in Irish mythology in two forms, one as the powerful warrior Queen of Connacht, and the other as the Queen of the fairies. According to Nameberry, Maeve "makes an excellent first or middle name choice, with more character and resonance than Mae/May and more modern charm than Mavis." You be the judge.

Nora/Norah

Another name of Irish origin tops popular names for girls list: Nora. Meaning "light", Nora has two separate origin stories, and is said to be a derivative of both Honora (based on the Latin word honor) and Eleanor (a shorter form of Eleanora).

This lovely name (another ending in "a") has only grown in popularity over the years. I think immediately of author and screenwriter Nora Ephron, and singer Norah Jones

Sophia/Sofia

Sophia is a Greek name that means "wisdom." Sophia was the #1 girls' name for much of the early 2010s, and it remains a top choice for parents wanting to give their child a name that signifies intelligence and grace on their little girls.

Sophia has a sophisticated and international appeal that gives it extra staying power (I'm thinking of Sophia Loren) with popular variants that include the French Sophie and the Italian Sofia.

Chloe

Chloe is a girls' name meaning "a young green shoot," and was the springtime name of the ancient Greek goddess of fertility Demeter. A classic name that peaked in popularity in the early 2000s, Chloe has now begun trending downward slightly in the ranks. Notable women named Chloe include the actress Chloe Grace Moretz, the Kardashian sister Khloe, and (surprise!) award-winning author Toni Morrison, who was born Chloe Ardelia Wofford.

Freya/Freja

The name Freya is a girl's name of Norse origin meaning "a noble woman" and is the name of the Norse goddess of love, beauty, and fertility. Popular in the U.K. and growing steadily in popularity in the United States, Nameberry predicts Freya will only continue its rise. Literary types will be reminded of Joseph Conrad's novel, Freya of the Seven Isles.

Abigail 

Abigail is a girl's name of Hebrew origin meaning "my father is joyful". Often thought of as a Biblical name, in the Old Testament, Abigail was the wife of David, said to be beautiful, wise, and prophetic. In the early nineteenth century, however, Abigail became a term for a maid which led to a decline in popularity. Needless to say, Abigail has risen again thanks to a rise in vintage and old fashioned names- all the way to the top 20 popular girls' names, and quite high on the list of girls' names starting with A.

Audrey

Of English origin, the name Audrey means "noble strength" and has been around for centuries. For context, Shakespeare bestowed the name Audrey on a character in his play, As You Like It. Thanks to the radiant Audrey Hepburn, the name has stayed near the top of girls' name lists for decades and is often considered when parents are looking for girl names that mean strong, brave, or powerful.

Grace 

One of the most classic names out there, Grace is of Latin origin and is derived from gratia, the Latin word for "grace." Used as a virtue name, it refers to divine grace, and the love and kindness of God. The name Grace will always be synonymous with Grace Kelly, Princess of Monaco. A popular name since the Victorian Era, I don't see Grace ever losing its most popular girls name stature.

But, if Grace is too overused for you, consider variations on the name that have also become more popular over the years, like Gray or Grayson.

Adelaide

Of German origin meaning "noble" or "nobility'', the name Adelaide is growing in popularity along similar names like girls' names starting with A, like Ava, Ada, Adeline and Amelia. One fun fact: the German princess who married British King William IV in 1830 was known as "Good Queen Adelaide", and inspired the name of Adelaide, Australia.

Lily/Lilly

Short for Lily flower, this fleur-themed name is as pretty as it sounds (and would probably smell great, too, if that were possible!) It's name popularity has grown steadily since as far back as the late 20th century, and now finds itself on a seemingly permanent place in the Top 25 of popular girls names. A symbol of purity, in Biblical terms, Lily means "God is abundance". These days, parents-to-be might think of singer Lily Allen or actress Lily James.

Isabella

Of Italian origin, Isabella means "God is my oath" and has been recognized in literary circles for hundreds of years, from Shakespeare to Jane Austen. A charming name that comes with the best nicknames around, like Izzy, Iz, Bella and Belle.

Vivienne/Vivien/Vivian

I'm partial to this one as this is the name of my second daughter (we spell her name Vivian). Of French origin meaning "alive", this name is a gorgeous one any way you spell it. And if you're a Pretty Woman fan, then you're really going to love it.

Eleanor

Of Greek origin meaning "bright, shining one", Eleanor is one of those classic girls names that never really diminishes in popularity, and for good reason. Beatles fans will love it because of the song "Eleanor Rigby", as well as the variation Elinor, used by Jane Austen in "Sense and Sensibility".

Ella

Another name I'm partial to, as this was my grandmother's name and is my younger daughter's middle name. Similar to Eleanor and Elizabeth, Ella really stands on her own. Of English origin meaning "fairy maiden", could you get any sweeter for a girls' name?

Mila 

Of Slavic and Russian descent, Mila means "dear one". A name that had dipped out of popularity, Mila is becoming more and more popular in the last few years (it's ranked in the top 20 of baby names in 2021, according to BabyCenter)!

Evelyn 

Interestingly, Evelyn, which means "wished for child" was originally used as a boy's name, and is of Irish and English origin. It's also another example of the rise of vintage, old-fashioned names.

Gianna

This pretty name is the feminine form of John in Italian, which means "God is gracious", and is growing in popularity. It's a shortened form of the more formal Giovanna, and in turn, Gianna can be shortened to Gia or Nina, two equally adorable names!

Check out additional baby name ideas here.

Getty

When you ask any two mamas to share their experience with breastfeeding, you are bound to get very unique answers. That's because while the act of breastfeeding is both wonderful and natural, it also comes with a learning curve for both mothers and babies.

In some cases, breastfeeding won't be the right path for everyone. But with the right tools, resources and social support systems, we can make progress toward the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation to continue breastfeeding through the first year of a child's life. After all, breastfeeding helps nourish infants, protects them against illnesses, develops their immune systems and more. Not to mention that mothers who breastfeed experience reduced risk for breast and ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

With National Breastfeeding Awareness Month this month, it's a great time for mamas (and expectant mamas!) to gather the supplies that will support their feeding journey—whether it looks like exclusively breastfeeding, pumping or combo-feeding.

Customflow™ Double Electric Breast Pump

Designed for regular use, this double electric breast pump allows mamas to customize the cycle and vacuum settings that work for them. The 100% SoftShape™ silicone shields on this pump form-fit to a wide range of breast shapes and sizes—which means more comfortable, more efficient pumping. And every pump comes with two complete Dr. Brown's Options+ bottles, giving you everything you need to go from pumping to feeding.

$159.99

Dr. Brown’s™ Breast Milk Collection Bottles

There's no need to cry over spilled milk—because it won't happen with these storage bottles! Make the pump-to-feeding transition simpler with Dr. Brown's Milk Collection Bottles. The bottles adapt to Dr. Brown's electric pumps to easily fill, seal and transport, and they work with Dr. Brown's bottle and nipple parts when your baby's ready to eat. (Meaning no risky pouring from one bottle to another. 🙌)

$9.99

Breast Milk Storage Bags

With an extra-durable design and double zip seal, your breast milk will stay fresh and safe in the fridge or freezer until it's needed. Plus, the bags are easy to freeze flat and then store for up to six months, so your baby can continue drinking breast milk long after you are done nursing.

$9.99

Silicone One-Piece Breast Pump with Options+™ Bottle & Bag

Here's something they don't tell you about breastfeeding ahead of time: While feeding your baby on one side, the other breast may "let down" milk, too. With this one-piece Silicone Breast Pump, you don't have to let those precious drops go to waste. The flexible design makes pouring the milk into a bottle stress-free.

$14.99

Dr. Brown’s® Manual Breast Pump

No outlet in sight? No worries! With this powerful-yet-gentle Manual Breast Pump, you can get relief from engorgement, sneak in some quick midnight pumping or perform a full pumping session without any electricity needed. With Dr. Brown's 100% silicone SoftShape™ Shield, the hand-operated pump is as comfortable as it is easy to use. Complete with Dr. Brown's® Options+™ Anti-Colic Wide-Neck Bottle, a storage travel cap and cleaning brush, consider this the breastfeeding essential for any mama who has places to go.

$29.99

Options+™ Anti-Colic Baby Bottle

With the soft silicone nipple and natural flow design of these bottles, your baby can easily switch between breast and bottle. Clinically proven to reduce colic thanks to the vent, your baby can enjoy a happy tummy after feeding sessions—without as much spit-up, burping or gas! By mimicking the flow and feel of the breast, these bottles help support your breastfeeding experience.

$7.99

This post is sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

7 hacks for simplifying after-school snacks

Prepping delicious and nutritious foods shouldn't take all day.

When you're in the middle of the school year and managing a family, each minute of time becomes very precious. Sometimes that means healthy food choices in the household can take a backseat. But don't stress it, mama. Prepping delicious and nutritious choices for the kids to munch on doesn't need to take all day.

Remember to keep it fun, simple and interactive! Here are tips for simplifying after-school snacks once and for all:

1. Prep snacks on Sunday

This simple trick can make the rest of the week a breeze. Tupperware is your friend here, you can even write different days of the week on each container to give the kids a little surprise every day. I really like storage with compartments for snack prep. Personally, I slice apples, carrots or cucumbers to pair with almond butter and hummus—all great to grab and go for when you're out all day and need some fresh variety.

2. When in doubt, go for fruit

Fruit is always a quick and easy option. I suggest blueberries, clementine oranges, apples, frozen grapes or even unsweetened apple sauce and dried fruit, like mixed fruit. It's fun to put together a fruit salad, too. Simply cut up all the fruit options and let the kids decide how they'd like to compile. Prepped fruit is also great to have on hand for smoothies, especially when it's been sitting in the fridge for a few days—throw it in the blender with some nut milk and voila.

3. Pair snacks with a dip

Hummus is a great dip to keep on hand with lots of versatility or you can grab a yogurt-based dip. Easy and healthy dippers include pre-sliced veggies, baby carrots and multigrain tortilla chips. Plain hummus is a great way to introduce seasonings and spices too—shake a little turmeric, add fresh basil and you'd be surprised what your kids will take to.

4. Have high-protein options readily available

Snacks with high protein, like cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, hard boiled eggs and jerky will fuel kids for hours. One of my favorites is a turkey stick, which is a fun addition to the hummus platter. Just slice into bite-sized pieces. I love cottage cheese because it can go savory or sweet, use as a dip with your prepped veggies, or drizzle pure maple syrup and sprinkle with berries.

5. Always keep the pantry stocked

Monthly deliveries keeps the pantry updated without a trip to grocery store. Many kids are big fans of popcorn, granola and pretzels. We like to DIY our own snack packs with a little popcorn, pretzels, nuts and whatever else is in the pantry so there's always something different!

6. Make cracker tartines

I love the idea of replicating popular restaurant dishes for kids. Here are some of my favorite snack-sized tartines using any crisp bread, or favorite flat cracker of your choice as the base. There are no rules and kids love adding toppings and finding new combinations they love.

  • Avocado crackers: Use a cracker and then layer with thinly sliced avocado, a dollop of fresh ricotta cheese topped with roasted pepitas or sunflower seeds.
  • Tacos: The base for this is a black bean spread—just drain a can of black beans, rinse and place into a wide bowl. With a fork or potato masher, lightly smush the beans until chunky. Spread onto your cracker and top with tomato, cheddar cheese and black olives. Try out a dollop of super mild salsa or some lime zest to introduce some new flavor profiles.
  • A play on PB&J: Smear peanut butter, almond or a favorite sun butter on the cracker. I like to get a mix it up a bit and put fresh fruit (strawberries, blueberries and tiny diced apples) and a little bit of dried fruit sprinkled on top.

7. Pre-make smoothie pops

The easy part about meal prep is the prep itself, but knowing exactly how much to make ahead is tricky. Freeze a smoothie in popsicle molds to have a healthy treat ready-to-go snack. They're super simple to make: Add any fruit (I like apples, berries, pineapples and mangoes) and veggies (carrots, steamed beet and wilted kale) to a blender with your favorite nut milk until you have consistency just a bit thinner than a smoothie. Pour into your trusty reusable popsicle molds and then into the freezer to make an ice pop so good they could eat them for breakfast.

Family Foodies

15 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

Keeping kids entertained is a battle for all seasons. When it's warm and sunny, the options seem endless. Get them outside and get them moving. When it's cold or rainy, it gets a little tricker.

So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of the best toys for toddlers and kids that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, many are Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these indoor outdoor toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.


Stomp Racers

As longtime fans of Stomp Rockets, we're pretty excited about their latest launch–Stomp Racers. Honestly, the thrill of sending things flying through the air never gets old. Parents and kids alike can spend hours launching these kid-powered cars which take off via a stompable pad and hose.

$19.99

Step2 Up and Down Rollercoaster

Step2 Up and Down Rollercoaster

Tiny thrill-seekers will love this kid-powered coaster which will send them (safely) sailing across the backyard or play space. The durable set comes with a high back coaster car and 10.75 feet of track, providing endless opportunities for developing gross motor skills, balance and learning to take turns. The track is made up of three separate pieces which are easy to assemble and take apart for storage (but we don't think it will be put away too often!)

$139

Secret Agent play set

Plan-Toys-Secret-agent-play-set

This set has everything your little secret agent needs to solve whatever case they might encounter: an ID badge, finger scanner, walkie-talkie handset, L-shaped scale and coloring comic (a printable file is also available for online download) along with a handy belt to carry it all along. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Stepping Stones

Stepping-stones

Kiddos can jump, stretch, climb and balance with these non-slip stepping stones. The 20-piece set can be arranged in countless configurations to create obstacle courses, games or whatever they can dream up.

$99.99

Sand play set

B. toys Wagon & Beach Playset - Wavy-Wagon Red

For the littlest ones, it's easy to keep it simple. Take their sand box toys and use them in the bath! This 12-piece set includes a variety of scoops, molds and sifters that can all be stored in sweet little wagon.

$17.95

Sensory play set

kidoozie-sand-and-splash-activity-table

Filled with sand or water, this compact-sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$19.95

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Foam pogo stick

Flybar-my-first-foam-pogo-stick

Designed for ages 3 and up, My First Flybar offers kiddos who are too young for a pogo stick a frustration-free way to get their jump on. The wide foam base and stretchy bungee cord "stick" is sturdy enough to withstand indoor and outdoor use and makes a super fun addition to driveway obstacle courses and backyard races. Full disclosure—it squeaks when they bounce, but don't let that be a deterrent. One clever reviewer noted that with a pair of needle-nose pliers, you can surgically remove that sucker without damaging the base.

$16.99

Dumptruck 

green-toys-dump-truck

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyard or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? It's made from recycled plastic milk cartons.

$22

Hopper ball

Hopper ball

Burn off all that extra energy hippity hopping across the lawn or the living room! This hopper ball is one of the top rated versions on Amazon as it's thicker and more durable than most. It also comes with a hand pump to make inflation quick and easy.

$14.99

Pull-along ducks

janod-pull-along-wooden-ducks

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$16.99

Rocking chair seesaw

Slidewhizzer-rocking-chair-seesaw

This built-to-last rocking seesaw is a fun way to get the wiggles out in the grass or in the playroom. The sturdy design can support up to 77 pounds, so even older kiddos can get in on the action.

$79.99

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$79.99

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$24.75

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Shop

Even 5 hours of screen time per day is OK for school-aged kids, says new study

Researchers found screen time contributes to stronger peer relationships and had no effect on depression and anxiety. So maybe it isn't as bad as we thought?

MoMo Productions/Getty Images

If you've internalized some parental guilt about your own child's screen time usage, you're not alone. Numerous studies have shown that exposure to significant amounts of screen time in children leads to an increased risk of depression and behavioral issues, poor sleep and obesity, among other outcomes. Knowing all this can mean you're swallowing a big gulp of guilt every time you unlock the iPad or turn on the TV for your kiddo.

But is screen time really that bad? New research says maybe not. A study published in September 2021 of 12,000 9- and 10-year-olds found that even when school-aged kids spend up to 5 hours per day on screens (watching TV, texting or playing video games), it doesn't appear to be that harmful to their mental health.

Researchers found no association between screen usage and depression or anxiety in children at this age.

In fact, kids who had more access to screen time tended to have more friends and stronger peer relationships, most likely thanks to the social nature of video gaming, social media and texting.


The correlations between screen time and children's health

But those big social benefits come with a caveat. The researchers also noted that kids who used screens more frequently were in fact more likely to have attention problems, impacted sleep, poorer academic performance and were more likely to show aggressive behavior.

Without a randomized controlled trial, it's hard to nail down these effects as being caused directly by screens. The study's authors analyzed data from a nationwide study known as the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study (ABCD Study), the largest long-term study of brain development and children's health in the country. They relied on self-reported levels of screen time from both children and adults (it's funny to note that those reported numbers differed slightly depending on who was asked… ).

It's important to remember that these outcomes are just correlations—not causations. "We can't say screen time causes the symptoms; instead, maybe more aggressive children are given screen devices as an attempt to distract them and calm their behavior," says Katie Paulich, lead author of the study and a PhD student in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience. Also worth noting is that a child's socioeconomic status has a 2.5-times-bigger impact on behavior than screens.

Weighing the benefits with the risks will be up to you as the parent, who knows your child best. And because we live in a digital world, screens are here to stay, meaning parents often have little choice in the matter. It's impossible to say whether recreational screen time is fully "good" or "bad" for kids. It's maybe both.

"When looking at the strength of the correlations, we see only very modest associations," says Paulich. "That is, any association between screen time and the various outcomes, whether good or bad, is so small it's unlikely to be important at a clinical level." It's all just part of the overall picture.

A novel look at screen time in adolescents

The researchers cite a lack of studies examining the relationship between screen time and health outcomes in this specific early-adolescence age group, which is one of the reasons why this study is so groundbreaking. The findings don't apply to younger children—or older adolescents, who may be starting to go through puberty.

Screen time guidelines do exist for toddlers up to older kids, but up to 1.5 hours per day seems unattainable for many young adolescents, who often have their own smartphones and laptops, or at least regular access to one.

Of course, more research is needed, but that's where this study can be helpful. The ABCD study will follow the 12,000 participants for another 10 years, following up with annual check-ins. It'll be interesting to see how the findings change over time: Will depression and anxiety as a result of screen time be more prevalent as kids age? We'll have to wait and see.

The bottom line? Parents should still be the gatekeepers of their child's screen time in terms of access and age-appropriateness, but, "our early research suggests lengthy time on screen is not likely to yield dire consequences," says Paulich.

Children's health

Mom and gorilla bond over their babies at the zoo: ‘It was so beautiful’

The new mothers shared a special moment at a Boston zoo.

Franklin Park Zoo/YouTube

Motherhood knows no bounds.

When Kiki the gorilla spotted a new mom and baby visiting her habitat at the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston, she immediately took a liking to the pair. Emmelina Austin held her five-week-old son Canyon to the glass so Kiki could get a better look.

The gorilla spent nearly five minutes happily pointing and staring at baby Canyon.


Emmelina's husband captured the sweet moment on his phone, in a video that's now gone viral.

Mother shares unique maternal bond with gorilla (FULL VIDEO) www.youtube.com

Why was Kiki so interested in her tiny visitor? Possibly because Kiki's a new mom herself. Her fifth baby, Pablo, was born in October.

Near the end of the video, Kiki scooped up Pablo and held him close. The new moms held their baby boys to the glass and shared a special moment together: just a couple of mothers, showing off their little ones.

"When I walked into the zoo that day, I never could've imagined that we would have had that experience," Austin told ABC News. "It was so beautiful, and we walked out just over the moon."

We can't get enough of the sweet exchange. There's something special about sharing your little one with the world. Mothers of all ages, races–and it turns out, species–understand.

Our favorite viral mama + kid videos