6 ways to moderate screen time in your home

iStock_000022513611_ExtraSmallWe’re living in a media world. No doubt about that. In fact, media follows us wherever we go these days. And our kids are honestly the most savvy among us. They get the hang of navigating iPhones and the various apps faster than you can figure out what your password is.

Media is here to stay and for the most part, it’s a great thing and has led to greater efficiency, communication, and sharing of valuable information.

But we knew there would be a down side. Our children are as fascinated and addicted as ever. We absolutely must moderate their media consumption and make sure the good outweighs the bad.

This is something my husband and I struggle with on a daily basis. We certainly don’t want them magnetically connected to some form of electronic for a good part of the day. So we have rules. Not always easy to enforce, but important and well worth the effort.

Set timers

I have found this to be the best and least confrontational way to set time limits on my kids’ media time. Whenever they sit down with one of their favorite TV episodes or need to hop on Dad’s iPad for a quick Minecraft game, I set a timer. I tell them ahead of time how long the timer is being set for (usually 20-30 minutes) and when it goes off, we move on to another activity.

Aim for no more than 2 hours total screen time per day. When you think about it, that’s actually a lot during a busy week of school, homework, and extracurricular activities. To help getting them to bed on time…turn off all media 1 hour before bedtime. Studies have shown this will help everyone get to sleep (and stay asleep) faster.

Get involved

Know what games and shows your children are playing/watching. Be sure they are age-appropriate and not filled with violent acts. Check Common Sense Media whenever you’re in doubt as you can find just about any movie, show, game, app, or book to determine age-appropriateness.

Play with them too. What about a game of bowling on the xBox or watching their favorite show with them? Being able to take part in something they enjoy will be a great time of connecting, instead of feeling disconnected.

Go outside

When everyone starts complaining that they’re bored, and why can’t we play our favorite video game?…head outside. It’s the best cure I know for whining, grumpiness, and complaints of boredom.

Be a good role model

Want your kids to spend most of their day screen-free? Well I hate to break it to you, but then you must too! I am so guilty of constantly checking my phone for new emails, almost to the point of obsession that it gets to be ridiculous.

Put down that mobile media. Turn off the TV. And practice what you preach.

As a bonus, do your best to spend the weekends off social media. When I started doing this…wow…it was amazing how much more quality time I had with my family and more time to get to some much needed household chores.

Have screen-free zones

No TVS or other electronics in the bedrooms. No screens (including, or especially, phones) at the dinner table. I am so adamant about these screen-free zones that just the other day I scolded my husband for bringing his iPad into our son’s room while we did some bedtime reading.


Be flexible

Rules are good but it’s also good to have some leeway. So while I’m pretty strict about our screen-free zones, I’m pretty lax about the amount of screen time our kids (and us) get on the weekends. We love Friday night movie night and waking up Saturday morning watching cartoons, drinking coffee, and reading the paper.

Rules are great…but sometimes, they really are meant to be broken.

Is it becoming increasingly difficult to moderate media/screen time in your home? Any good tips to share?


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5 Responses to 6 ways to moderate screen time in your home
  1. Katie Spencer White
    January 26, 2013 | 3:20 pm

    Very timely advice – my 9 & 12 year olds have discovered “Pottermore” and screen time has gone through the roof. And modern technology moves so fast – with reading aps and kindles that surf the web, a good idea (facilitating reading) suddenly becomes problematic. Food for thought here.

  2. Jillian of Baby Doodah!
    January 27, 2013 | 6:38 am

    I don’t have this problem quite yet, my son is only 6 months old but it is one of my biggest worries. I don’t want him to prefer to sit inside on the computer or in front of the TV over going outside and playing. I am pinning this for future use. Thank you!!!

  3. Katherine
    January 27, 2013 | 9:10 am

    I have the same problem: my kids want to continuously be on the computer, or my iPhone, or the Wii. And I’m not always the best at regulating it. I do make them have all the chores, including homework, done before they are allowed on. And I give them something to expect. Either a timer, or when dinner is ready, etc. When they know when they are expected to be off, they never throw a fit about it. And I’m with you: I’ve had to scold my husband for playing Angry Birds at dinner!

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