Should parents limit screen time? The challenge is the attitude that comes with these limits, but I’ve got some great tips for you!
My 2 boys seem to rush right to the TV as soon as they get home. The mention of TV time happens before jackets are off, and sometimes it starts while we are still in the car.
The thing is, my boys only get one hour of screen time a day. Whether it’s tablet, TV or video games, it’s one hour and that’s it.
Even though sometimes the idea of unlimited time with devices and electronics is super tempting because it keeps the kids quiet and sometimes parents need a minute of peace.
But with that minute of peace, comes a huge wave of mom guilt. According to this study completed in 2016, Screen time is the NUMBER 1 reason parents feel guilty!
I don’t know about you, but I’m in the same boat, I have huge guilt if screen time goes over the hour I promised.
However, setting limits on how much TV / Video Game time your child has isn’t always easy in today’s technology forward world.
There are so many different ways that kids can be engaged with a screen.
Whether it is a cell phone, a tablet or a handheld game device like a Switch or a DS, it can be difficult to set limits for those devices and not deal with a ton of backlash from your child.
Once upon a time, the simple fact that I knew I had to tell my children to put down their devices because screen time was over, made me cringe so much, I let them have extra screen time.
I was a pushover for the fear of dealing with a tantrum, and then I started to think “should parents limit screen time” at all? With all the benefits it CAN provide?
I do believe the answer is all about creating a healthy screen time balance.
Thank goodness I’ve learned a lot since that time, and now I can share with you the tactics that worked for our family to get our kids off screens and playing outside or something more healthy.
Should Parents Limit Screen Time: The Screen Time Monster
Screens are addicting. How many adults do you see that can’t even put their phones down when they drive?
Can we really blame our kids for getting so addicted to their devices? I can’t blame mine. I can blame myself but what good does that do?
The issue is, breaking the cycle and taming the screen time monster.
It is very simple to turn off any device, tear it out of your child’s hands and go on with your day.
However, those kinds of actions generally cause some sort of meltdown.
When I was looking for strategies to cope with the disconnection of screens, I was hoping to use positive parenting strategies, as that is the way I parent my children.
I wanted to bring my children back into the real world without the hardships that came along with it.
Related: Practical Tips For Teaching Kids Manners
How To Limit Daily Screen Time
There are four things you can do to limit the screen time in your home.
- Set A Schedule
- Allow Binge Days
- Track Screen Time
But before you set your schedule and allow for binge days, talk to your child about the dangers of too much screen time and your expectations for managing screen time use.
Talk to your children about balance. Tell them the importance of limiting time on the screen such as strain on the eyes, the importance of movement and exercise, and the effect too much time on screen can have on behaviour.
If you can talk to your child about balance, you can use phrases such as “Looks like it’s time to get off the Switch, we need to create balance”.
But because children need more than a chat about balance to help manage their daily screen time, here are 3 more things you can do to help limit the screen time in your home.
Set A Schedule
It’s no secret that children thrive on routine, and setting a schedule for screen time can help set some rules and expectations around the home.
In our home, screen time is allowed while I’m making dinner. This works well for me because otherwise, the kids distract me and I end up burning dinner. If I can have a full hour without the kids asking for my attention, the whole evening goes more smooth.
For you, screen time could be 15 minutes while you shower, and 45 minutes after lunch.
Consistency is key when it comes to creating a routine. As kids grow up, they will try to negotiate, but you must stick to your guns and stick to the schedule you created.
Allow Binge Days
If you’re a busy family with after school activities or simply don’t have time for screen time during the weekdays, perhaps a binge day on the weekend is what you need.
You can provide no limitations on the weekend, or you can give permission to have screen time on Saturday mornings only until 10am.
Whatever works for your family. If you have birthday parties and playdates on Saturday afternoons, then you have the perfect opportunity to end screen time as soon as it is time to get ready. After you get home, there should be no expectations of screen time since there was an “overdose” of it in the morning.
Be sure to brainstorm a list of things to do when they’re bored, so their go-to is not just to turn on a screen.
Track Screen Time
There are many apps available to help you and your family track screen time.
It’s a good idea to track how much time you spend on the screen and if that time is excessive, you can make a plan on how to limit that.
This is a good tactic if you have older children who have their own devices. if you notice Lucy spent 90 minutes on Instagram one Tuesday afternoon, you can have a talk about balance and provide a 15-minute limit to Instagram time on Tuesday evenings.
Make sure to use the tracking apps to start conversations about screen time use and balance in your family. You can also involve your kids in screen time limit decisions. For example, if Lucy believes she should get 20 minutes of screen time on Tuesday and is willing to give up Instagram on Wednesdays, then maybe that works better for your family.
When It’s Time To End Screen Time For The Night, This Is How I Get Electronics Turned Off Without A Fight.
Have you ever been in the middle of a movie and all of a sudden the power cut out? You probably got pretty frustrated and tried to find a solution so you can get back to your show.
How about if you’re trying to send a text and your phone suddenly shows a pop up that won’t go away. Pretty darn frustrating.
For adults, simple things like that can trigger a tantrum. Yes, I do believe adults have tantrums!
Imagine you are a small child, one who doesn’t really know how to regulate their emotions. Someone who is still relatively new to the world, be it 5 years or 10 years, they are still new and still learning.
Put yourself in a situation where you are 5 years old and you’re playing a game.
You love this game so much and it’s really interesting.
You may have heard a five-minute warning, but it went in one ear and out the other. You’re far too interested in this game.
Then all of a sudden, your game gets shut off.
Power out, just like that. (kind of like the blackout during a movie)
A) Lose your mind
B) Calmly move onto the next situation
Most likely A.
This is when the tantrums, the talking back, the frustration that grows on both ends of the situation.
Avoid that, with one simple rule.
Engage With The Situation.
What I mean by that:
What you’re doing is creating a positive connection with your child and slowly pulling them out of their zoned out coma, gently.
I’ll put this into action for you so you can really understand what I’m trying to say.
If your child is watching a television show, sit down next to them. Be there with them for just a few moments and then engage in conversation.
A simple question such as “What are you watching?” or “Who is that character, I’ve never seen him before?” can trigger a response.
Once your child responds to you, they are slowly being pulled out of the zoned-out state of mind.
Your child should now be aware of your presence and will be more inclined to remember what you say to them.
This is now a great time to bring up the next task at hand for example “Bath time is in 5 minutes” or “it is time to turn off your tablet now”.
You’ll be surprised how often your child may even turn their device off before the given time frame is up.
What you did was engage with your child, come down to their world and slowly pull them back into reality.
Try It Yourself
Try Engaging With The Situation yourself!
- Next time your child is in a zoned-out state of screen time zombies, sit down next to them for 30 seconds to a minute or so and just be there with them.
- Ask a question about the activity and show some interest.
- Pull your child out of their zoned out state with conversation and present the upcoming series of events.
Remember that regulating emotions is something humans work on their whole lives, it is not an easy thing to just grasp in childhood.
If you like this article, you may also enjoy reading about taming toddler tantrums in public using positive parenting strategies.
- McArthur BA, Browne D, McDonald S, Tough S, Madigan S. Longitudinal associations between screen use and reading in preschool-aged children. Pediatrics. 2021;147(6). doi:10.1542/peds.2020-011429
- Walsh JJ, Barnes JD, Cameron JD, et al. Associations between 24 hour movement behaviours and global cognition in US children: a cross-sectional observational study. The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health. 2018;2(11):783-791. doi:10.1016/S2352-4642(18)30278-5.
- Healthychildren.org. Where We Stand: Screen Time.
- van den Heuvel M, Ma J, Borkhoff CM, et al. Mobile media device use is associated with expressive language delay in 18-month-old children. J Dev Behav Pediatr. 2019;40(2):99-104. doi:10.1097/DBP.0000000000000630
- Madigan S, Browne D, Racine N, Mori C, Tough S. Association between screen time and children’s performance on a developmental screening test. JAMA Pediatr. 2019;173(3):244. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2018.5056
- Madigan S, Racine N, Tough S. Prevalence of preschoolers meeting vs exceeding screen time guidelines. JAMA Pediatr. 2020;174(1):93. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2019.4495
- Brandt A, Gebrian M, Slevc LR. Music and early language acquisition. Front Psychol. 2012;3:327. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00327
- Madigan S, Eirich R, Pador P, McArthur BA, Neville RD. Assessment of changes in child and adolescent screen time during the COVID-19 pandemic: A systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Pediatrics. 2022;176(12):1188. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2022.4116
- American Academy of Pediatrics. Beyond screen time: Help your kids build healthy media use habits.
- Lee SI, Matsumori K, Nishimura K, et al. Melatonin suppression and sleepiness in children exposed to blue-enriched white LED lighting at night. Physiol Rep. 2018;6(24):e13942. doi:10.14814/phy2.13942
- Children’s Hospital Colorado. The benefits of physical activity and exercise on mental health.
- Paulich KN, Ross JM, Lessem JM, Hewitt JK. Screen time and early adolescent mental health, academic, and social outcomes in 9- and 10- year old children: utilizing the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study. PLoS One. 2021 Sep 8;16(9):e0256591. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0256591
- American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Screen time and children.
- American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Communications and Media. Media and young minds. Pediatrics. 2016 Nov;138(5):e20162591. doi:10.1542/peds.2016-2591
- Barnett TA, Kelly AS, Young DR, et al. Sedentary behaviors in today’s youth—approaches to the prevention and management of childhood obesity: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2018;138(11). doi:10.1161/CIR.0000000000000591
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. Health risks of an inactive lifestyle.
- American Academy of Pediatrics. Children and media tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
- Chang AM, Aeschbach D, Duffy JF, Czeisler CA. Evening use of light-emitting eReaders negatively affects sleep, circadian timing, and next-morning alertness. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2015;112(4):1232-1237. doi:10.1073/pnas.1418490112
- Wahl S, Engelhardt M, Schaupp P, Lappe C, Ivanov IV. The inner clock—Blue light sets the human rhythm. J Biophotonics. 2019;12(12). doi:10.1002/jbio.201900102
- Parkes A, Green M, Pearce A. Do bedroom screens and the mealtime environment shape different trajectories of child overweight and obesity? Research using the Growing Up in Scotland study. Int J Obes. 2020;44(4):790-802. doi:10.1038/s41366-019-0502-1
- Guan H, Okely AD, Aguilar-Farias N, et al. Promoting healthy movement behaviours among children during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lancet Child Adolesc Health. 2020;4(6):416-418. doi:10.1016/S2352-4642(20)30131-0
- Wu CST, Fowler C, Lam WYY, Wong HT, Wong CHM, Yuen Loke A. Parenting approaches and digital technology use of preschool age children in a Chinese community. Ital J Pediatr. 2014;40(1):44. doi:10.1186/1824-7288-40-44
- Peracchia S, Curcio G. Exposure to video games: Effects on sleep and on post-sleep cognitive abilities. A systematic review of experimental evidences. Sleep Sci. 2018;11(4):302-314. doi:10.5935/1984-0063.20180046