Can Kids Self-Regulate Their Screen Time and Build Healthy Screen Habits?

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You might be wondering your children can self-regulate their own screen time, especially if you are able to help them build healthy screen time habits.

The short answer is that yes technically children can regulate their own screen time but the foundations which are established around screen time must be strong.

Your child may need screen time to access knowledge via YouTube (here are the best youtube documentaries for kids!), or to play exciting math games, but also want to play hours of Minecraft…whatever the screen time activity is, it should be kept short, and let’s face it, even adults have a tough time regulating screen time so kids will also have a tough time.

But it’s not all bad news, you can help set some foundations in their life early on which can help your child self-regulate screen time in the future. What you do now sets them up for the future.

It’s a wonderful reminder that screentime and screen use may and should vary as your kids become older. Starting young allows you to lay a solid foundation for your relationship with technology. Even if your children are older, it is not too late to review and decide on-screen restrictions.

Screen time will look different in every household, just like everything else in parenting. Rather than comparing your children’s screen time to that of other kids his or her age, I’d advise you to consider what your child needs.

Maybe, like us, you’ll discover that your child can’t handle a lot of screen time right now. Read here about our 45 minute screen time rules.

Perhaps you’ll discover that while your child seems to be fine with screens, he or she requires assistance with internet safety.

Perhaps you’ll discover that you need to assess your own screentime. (Need help to break up with your cell phone? I got you here.)

Building Healthy Screen Time Habits

Model The Behavior You Want To See

Begin with yourself – Take stock of your personal screen use before focusing on how much time your kids spend on devices. When you’re done looking through social media, how often do you say, “just a minute?” Do you check your phone first thing in the morning? Do you feel driven to check it on a regular basis? Is your whole family falling into the habit of watching a lot of TV? Is there any guilt or shame associated with your or your children’s usage of a screen?

Evaluate your own screen time habits because your children are watching you and learning from you every single day.

Be Kind

Set boundaries with compassion — There’s nothing wrong with watching a TV or letting your kids play a game on your phone every now and again, but make sure it doesn’t become a habit. It’s fine for children to be bored since that’s when their creativity shines the brightest! It’s also fine if your tween doesn’t have a phone, despite your child saying everyone at school has one. It’s also OK to adhere to the suggested standards for games and social media profiles, because you are keeping your child safe, which is your job after all.

Transition Slowly

Instead of expecting your child to instantly switch off their screens, utilize a connection to assist their brain shift from one job to the next. Ask your child questions about their show, game, or activity while you sit next to them. Once you’ve connected, you may remind each other that screen time is over and perhaps even continue your relationship by doing something together.

See also: How I Prevent Tears And Tantrums Around Screen Time With My Kids (and How You Can Too)

Prepare For Tears

Allow all emotions – Video games are meant to keep the player interested and playing, so finding a “good moment to stop” can be tough. Your child could become overstimulated by screen time and find it difficult to move on once the activity has ended.

During this phase, many children have trouble controlling their emotions. Maintain a sense of serenity and connection. Supporting them rather than pressuring them to immediately “calm down” or “get over it.”

See also: How to Help Your Emotional Child

Educate And Support

Change your role in screentime from monitor to mentor as your children become older. Rather of just restricting screen time, your role should be to educate, assist, and lead them through the subtleties of screen use.

Discuss safety, assist them in considering the implications of their actions, and fact-check publications, among other things. Here is a good resource for apps that protect kids from cybercrime. These are discussions, not lectures, that evolve as your child grows and the material they consume grows.

See also: Confidence In Kids Is Influenced By These Emotional Needs


If screentime is a cause of frequent conflict in your household, start by being open to comprehend your children’s perspective. Work hard to understand your children’s point of view. You may have a different perspective on things, but avoid the impulse to point out discrepancies or make this into a teaching opportunity. Instead, make sure you know what matters and where things are going wrong.

See also: Brilliant Strategies For Setting Boundaries With A Strong-Willed Child

Sort Out The Kinks

Solve the problem jointly — After your child has felt heard, you may go on to the solution step. The aim is to collaborate and come up with a solution that benefits everyone (not just one of you!). This might include a screentime agreement, media restrictions, or learning a new game together. If your initial solution fails, don’t give up; instead, return to listening and problem-solving.

See also: Principles of a Family Meeting Agenda

Healthy Screen Time Habits Start With You

More than ever before, screens are a part of our life. And they show no signs of waning in their power and influence.

However, you have influence and impact as well!

See also: How To Build A Loving Family

When it comes to screentime concerns, it’s easy to become angry and dictatorial. It’s also simple to get apathetic as a result of the continual conflict. Both of these reactions are typical.

Be patient as you navigate screen time in your home. Allow yourself plenty of patience as you strive toward appropriate screentime discussions and calm, confident parenting with your children. Here is another resource for your for how much screen time is healthy for your children.

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