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How to Successfully Set Limits on Screen Time for Kids

Based on the research available, the American Association of Pediatrics recommends keeping kids younger than 18-24 months away from screens entirely. The only exception is for video chatting with family, which can help kids build bonds with family and practice language skills. For kids between 2 and 5 years old, the AAP suggests keeping screen time to one hour per day or less.

After that, the general recommendation is to keep screen time to less than two hours per day. This isn't always possible in today's world, especially with so many activities currently taking place online. With most things in parenting, it's important to remember that there is no "one size fits all" approach. Instead, you will need to work out what makes the most sense for you and your child. Use these guidelines while doing this to make sure whatever plan you do create conforms as best possible to modern medical advice.

How to Spot If Your Child is Getting Too Much Screen Time

Here are some things to look for that indicate it might be time to cut back:

  • Lack of sleep or difficulty sleeping

  • Poor physical health

  • Disinterest in school

  • Isolation from friends and family

  • Lack of curiosity for other hobbies or interests

Of course, even if your child isn't exhibiting these symptoms, they may be getting too much screen time, so keep an eye out for changes in their behavior or health to see if you need to make an adjustment.

Here are some recommendations to help you start limiting the amount of screen time in your home:

  • Start With a Conversation

  • Create a Screen Policy

  • Keep Devices Public

  • Use Parental Controls as Needed

Start With a Conversation

The first thing is to have a conversation. Arbitrarily imposing rules on your children lead to frustration and confusion, but if your children understand at least in part why a rule is made, then cooperation is more likely.

During this conversation, ask them about their screen habits. Ask what they do when they're on a device, how much they think is too much, and why it's important to limit screen time. Also, remind them that using a screen for fun is a privilege and not a right. Just because the device exists doesn't mean they get to use it whenever they want. Gaining a privilege requires showing respect and responsible use. By asking and answering these questions together, you can cooperatively lay the groundwork for whatever policy you decide to implement. In turn, this cooperation will increase the chances of it being accepted and followed.

Create a Screen Policy

Things to put in a screen policy include:

  • Restrictions on when and where kids can use devices.

  • Time limits for non-school-related screen activities. These can be daily or weekly, depending on what works best for you and your family.

  • Windows of time when screens can't be used (before bed, during meals, during certain hours, etc.)

  • Types of content that are appropriate.

  • Stipulations for screen use, such as when homework is done or after they've gone outside.

  • Consequences for breaking the policy. For example, ignoring the policy could lead to a loss of screen privileges for the following day.

Your screen policy's specifics will vary based on you and your family, but if you include these elements, you are well on your way to helping your kids develop good screen habits.

Keep Devices Public

Kids often end up in front of screens for too long because they have unsupervised access to devices. Maybe they have their own device, or they have a TV in their room, or they know how to get a device without anyone looking.

No matter the case, an excellent way to combat this is to make all devices public. Keep computers and tablets in common areas and limit the number of TVs kids have access to. This will make it harder for them to lose hours and hours in front of a screen, but it will also make it easier for you to keep tabs on their screen time and what they are doing when they are online.

Use Parental Controls As Needed These are available on nearly all devices, as well as on your internet and cable service. With parental controls, you can put limits on what types of content your kids can access, and you can also restrict kids' ability to use a device. These types of limits can become frustrating but may be necessary if other policies and limits are too easily ignored.


*This blog post is the first in a series of posts adapted with permission from the original author, Helen Griffin. Content originally published on Cable Comparisons Blog.

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