Author: Jennie Nack, M.S.
Have you ever wondered how much screen time is too much? Setting limits for screen time is never an easy task, especially for children. Screen time is not always bad or a problem for every child. Experts say when it comes to children, look at the big picture of their overall health. If they are getting enough sleep, exercise, spending quality time with family and friends, and enjoying non-screen activities (sports, dance, music, etc.) then it may not be a problem for your child. But if the answer to most of the above is no, then it may be time to set some rules around screen time. Here are some boundaries or rules that may be helpful:
- Make it predictable: try picking a specific time of day or week that screens are available to your child.
- Make it a reward: screen time can be earned for positive behaviors
- Model healthy screen use for your child (put away your devices during a set time)
- Make it consistent: Don’t give in or change the rules just because they are giving you a hard time.
- Start rules when other changes are happening such as the beginning of a new week, the end of a school break, or the start of a new month so that it feels like a fresh start for everyone.
- Establish a place where the device will stay when it is not screen time (ex: putting the tablet/phone/computer on the kitchen counter or on a specific shelf.)
Rule of thumb: Children under the age of two should not have screen time, children ages 2-12 get one hour a day, and children ages 13+ get two hours per day, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
It is normal for children to push back or get angry when new rules are put in place, especially when it comes to taking away their screens. Give it some time! They should adjust to the new limits within a week or two. Remember to not give in when tantrums arise, exceptions to screen time rules only make it harder in the long run. However, if you need to make exceptions occasionally to take care of yourself that is ok! Lastly, it can be helpful to come up with a list of alternative activities that your kids can participate in during non-screen time. Together, you can develop an “activity menu” from which they can choose an activity when they are feeling bored without screens. An example of some activities you may include are reading a book, playing with a pet, playing with dolls, building with blocks, playing a board game, drawing, painting, or making up a dance, etc.
If you want to learn more about setting limits on screen time, check out the following links:
Sheldon-Dean, H. (2021, October 27). How to set limits on Screen Time. Child Mind Institute. Retrieved January 13, 2022, from https://childmind.org/article/screen-time-during-the-coronavirus-crisis/