5 steps to balancing screen time

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We get it. You have a lot to get done, and kids can be a handful. Screens are the ultimate babysitter— no matter what your age is. You shouldn’t feel guilty about doing what you need to get chores done, get dinner on the table, or have that overdue talk about budget with your partner.

But if you’re feeling like you’ve lost control of your kids’ screen time, these five steps to creating balance might be able to help! 

1. Assess how much screen time is happening.

It can be helpful to understand how much time and where kids are spending on their screens every day. Parental controls through Apple and Android can help with this, along with other third-party apps. 

2. Decide how much is too much.

Talk with your partner or your children’s other guardians about how much screen time is right for your family. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends zero screen time for kids under two and less than an hour of screen time per day for kids up to age five. Once kids reach six years of age and up, the studies are less conclusive about what counts as excessive screen time. There’s no right or wrong answer here. It’s about what’s best for you and your child.

3. Talk to your family about screen time management.

Explain the why behind the need for limits on screen time. Decide which device and app limits to set and which to mark as “always allowed” (like video chatting or eReaders). Your kids will probably appreciate that you are trying to keep them healthy and safe. Plus, once they realize you’re going to abide by the same rules (and you should), maybe it won’t seem so unfair. For added buy-in, you can ask them to offer up some suggestions! They might see ways for a compromise that you wouldn’t have thought of. The more opportunities for collaboration from them, the better.


4. Stick to the plan.

No matter what rules you’ve laid out for your family’s screen time usage, follow them. Whether you’ve agreed to screen-free bedrooms, device-free dinners, or a screen-free game night once a week, make sure to follow through. 

5. Consider rewards or repercussions.

Depending on what’s right for your family, consider implementing a system of rewards or repercussions for screen time usage. For example, perhaps you reward following the rules with a new app a month or an extra hour of screen time on the weekends. If kids are struggling to follow the plan you’ve agreed on, explore reducing screen time, limiting device access in freetime, or whatever approach works best for your family.

Creating open and honest conversations with your kids about screen time management and inviting them to be a part of establishing that plan may mean they’re more invested in following that plan moving forward.

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