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4 Ways to Manage Screen Time

We all know screen time isn’t great for kids. On average, kids are craving more of it at a younger age than ever before. Time spent on mobile devices for kids ages 0-8 tripled between 2013 and 2017. How can parents stem the flow? Here’s a few ideas.


But first, a warning. No matter which of these methods you choose, you need to practice what you preach. Kids will emulate your technology usage habits, and if you’re trying to get them to use it differently than you intend to, you are going to have difficulty. Model the behavior that you hope to get from them.

Curfew—set certain times of the day when screens are and are not allowed. A common approach is no screens before breakfast or after dinner. For kids in school that means the hours between the end of their school day and dinnertime are fair game. Other families may find more success doing the converse—no screens until dinner.

A curfew like this gives kids the freedom to enjoy their shows and games during the window where screens are permitted. That freedom will be empowering.

But you might get some resistance if you need to go somewhere or do something during the usual “screen time.” But a little flex to the rules that day should resolve it.

You will probably want to have a system to remind them that the curfew is coming. A five-minute warning has prevented many-a tantrum.

Hardware—similar to the curfew but enforced in a higher-tech way. There are lots of devices now which will help you regulate screen time automatically. These have the added benefit of soaking up some of a child’s ire. It’s the wifi’s fault not Mom’s! :-)

Most tablets and phones have usage regulation features and so do most wireless routers. It might take a little doing to get them set how you want. If you get stuck, make it a project for your kid! Seriously, you might be surprised how adept they are at manipulating the settings on your devices.

Capitalize on any opportunity to make your child the expert and invite them to teach you something.

Trade choices—tie durations to who picks the show.

One of the most interesting screen time management ideas we’ve heard is to set two duration limits: one if the child chooses the programming and a longer duration if the parent gets to choose.

Again with the choices (we’re fans), and now there’s an incentive for your kid to let you sit them down in front of nature documentaries instead of YouTube videos of other people playing video games (a phenomenon that we still don’t understand).

Make it a reward—Since screen time is so often the object of a child’s desire, try using it as a reward for behavior you’re trying to cultivate. A classic example is: screen time after a set of daily chores is complete.

Do you have a different way to manage screen time? We’d love to hear about it.

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