Being exposed to too much screen time, be it a TV, tablet, video game or computer, and even smartphones, is extremely dangerous and easy to fall for both children and families in general.
Leading a sedentary life can result in high blood pressure, obesity and a multitude of additional health problems. It can also hinder time that would be better off spent sleeping, doing homework, reading or even engaging in active play.
In this regard, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that children that were under two years of age shouldn’t be exposed to screens at all, while older kids should have their time limited to a max of two hours a day, preferably less. However, this advice has recently been updated to reflect the following information.
Guideline for children’s screen time:
- From 0 to 18 months of age: you should only allow video chatting (this is in cases where one of both parents need to travel and be away from the baby, or if a relative lives far away and face to face meetups are nearly impossible).
- For toddlers, between 18 to 24 months of age: you can let them view high-quality programming as long as you view it together with them.
- For preschoolers, between 2 to 5 years of age: they shouldn’t watch over one hour of high-quality programming a day, and you should watch it with them.
- For kids, 6 years of age and higher: there is no specific time limit, so parents will need to set their own screen time limits and set the guidelines on how much time should be spent using media and what kinds of media. Also, they should make sure children are still getting enough sleep and physical activity, as well as remain healthy in all other aspects.
So as a parent, how can you go on to set those limits and keep them consistent as well? Today we’re going to share ten options to achieve this and you’ll only need a couple of them to make things work.
Get all screens out of the bedrooms
Make sure all computers, TVs, and video games are kept in the common areas instead of children’s bedrooms. This will keep them from disappearing into their bedrooms for hours. By sharing screen time with the rest of the family you can also keep an eye on what they’re watching and for how long.
This can be a bit trickier when it comes down to smartphones and tablets. So a good rule of thumb is to charge these devices overnight and then keep them in the common areas, instead of the bedrooms. This was they won’t interfere with their sleep.
Make some days or hours “screen-free”
Some families have found it much easier to keep children away from screens on school days, weekends between a couple hours in the afternoon or during the summer. It’s very important, though, that mealtimes are completely screen-free, even for the parents.
Using simple rules like this one can help you avoid having to decide on a daily or case-by-case basis how much screen time is enough. Children might meet this rule with some resistance, as natural, but they’ll eventually accept it like any other rule.
You can also take advantage of technology in order to fight technology, and use tools such as the Torch or Luma router, or a router plug-in like “Circle” by Disney. These tools let you control for how long and at which times your family’s devices can stay online. It can also limit which apps and sites they get access to.
Define how much screen time is too much
Make sure you define how much screen time a day or a week, you consider enough for your children. You can set something as one hour a day on weekdays and then two on the weekend, excluding screen-time used for homework.
Explain this to your children calmly and clearly, ensuring they understand why you’re setting limits: too much time sitting down has a negative impact on their health. If you have younger kids, tell them that it’s not good for their bodies and brains. Also, assign and share the consequences for breaking these rules ahead of time.
Give them alternatives
Motivate your children to go on walks, play outside, ride bikes, or even play active games indoor instead of letting them use their screens. A great way to accomplish this is by playing with them.
You can also communicate with them and work on creating a custom list of screen-free activities that they can have fun doing. You can then refer to this list when they’ve had too much screen time or to keep that from happening.
Use incentives according to their age
Adapt your strategies to limit screen-time to your kid’s age. So if you have a preschooler, make sure you offer distractions so if you tend to let your child play on your phone or tablet while you prepare dinner or take a shower, try finding an activity she/he can do next to you, instead.
If you’re taking a bath or shower, have them color the tub or a paper outside, using washable crayons. If you’re cooking, have them help by tearing up lettuce for a salad.
If your children are school-aged, then you can make screen-time a privilege that they have to earn (we will elaborate on this below ). Also, make sure you plan play dates often so they don’t get a chance to complain that they “don’t have anything to do”.
For teenagers, set a rule that you’ll have the right to remove access to electronic devices and/or the internet if their household duties are not taken care of, or if their grades slip.
Have them earn their screen time
Instruct your children that they’ll have to earn their screen time by finishing their chores, homework, practices, outdoor activities, etc. The simple way is to let them enjoy their screen time only after their homework and chores are done, but also with a max limit.
You can plan this in many ways, to keep it fun. Give them chips or tickets for each accomplished deed that they can then cash in to use the tablet and/or play games online.
Teach them through your actions
Remember that being a role model to activities you want your kids to mimic is much more powerful than simply telling them what to do.
If you’re constantly watching TV or leaving it on as background noise, and check your phone every time you’re idle, it’ll be almost impossible to enforce your rules on your children.
Give your kids some level of control
Let them choose what they want to watch on the tablet and at what time, as long as it matches your guidelines regarding screen time.
Try not to abruptly turn off their tablet or ending their video game at the middle of a level. Give them warnings and give them a chance to turn them off themselves.
Guide them to producing instead of consuming
If your children really like movies, video games or video streaming apps, motivate them to switch roles and become content producers and make their own entertainment. Recommend creating a choreography, staging a fun battle or entertaining comedy routines.
Tablet Parental Controls
Aside from active control and limitations, you can make use of tablet apps that can help limit your child’s screen time. Thankfully, we have a large variety of apps to choose from:
Dedicated screen time apps
You can use apps that automatically set the limit for the time children can be on their devices. These apps include Boomerang, Kids Zone Parental Controls, Screenlimit and MM Guardian. We also have “Screen Time” which has a nice balance of control and features for about $3.99 a month. You can also use Google Family Link.
You simply need to install the Screen Time app on the tablet your children will be using and the parental version in your phone or tablet. Your version will let you set daily limits for specific apps, ban some of them altogether, request approval before installing new apps, have defined hours during which the tablet can be used and a “freeze” button that pauses everything while you talk to them, so you can be distraction-free.
The added benefit is that it lets you create a list of tasks that your kid can complete in order to earn more screen time. So if they get their tasks out of the way, they earn extra time on YouTube or Netflix.
Their main benefit, though is that the conflict is directed towards the app, instead of the parent having to argue with their child consistently, for the device. And you can test out the app first to see if it suits you since it offers a 14-day free trial.
You can also resort to the parental controls already included in Android devices in order to restrict screen time without any additional applications. If you’re not convinced by Screen Time, take a look at the below:
Spyzie Parental Control
This parental control time limit app for Android can help you limit the time your children spend on mobile devices. It’s perfect for monitoring their online activity as well as setting a limit on the amount of time they can be on the tablet.
This app is compatible with both Android and iOS. It also works with a large range of mobile devices from Sony, HTC, Huawei, Samsung and more. You can check their list of compatible devices to confirm if yours is also compatible.
This app has a comprehensive set of features which make it a popular app. It’s been endorsed by Forbes, CNet, Daily Mail and other popular media outlets. If you want one app that can both limit screen time and monitor usage, this is the right choice for you since it can:
- Check activity on social media.
- Limit screen time.
- Monitor calls and SMS
- Check location in real time.
- Track keystrokes so you know what’s been typed
- Monitor events on calendar
- Capture screenshots on your child’s device
FamilyTime Parental Control
This is a great app to limit screen time on Android devices since it lets you monitor what your child is doing and also places limits on what things they can do. It lets you control what they do and for how long they can use the tablet. Extra points since it’s free and lets you get additional features that are paid.
- Receive activity reports
- Get SOS or emergency alerts in real-time with location
- Ability to block games and apps remotely
- See what apps are used most often
- Set limits for how much time is spent on the device
Kaspersky SafeKids Parental Control
This screen-limiting app was developed by the makers of the popular antivirus software: Kaspersky, and it gives you the ability to completely control your children’s mobile devices.
Kaspersky Safekids lets you limit the screen time and monitor everything remotely. So you can easily set restrictions and monitor what your kids are doing from your own device. This is very convenient for parents since they can keep tabs on everything while they’re at home.
- Create personal lists of blocked apps
- Monitor your child’s usage via your personal account and device
- Keep track of text message and calls
- Receive notifications when suspicious activity is detected
- Keep track of Facebook activity
- Works on Android OS
- Is easily affordable at $14.95
Establish real-world restrictions and incentives
Circling back on what we mentioned before, it’s always better to make sure you set the restrictions on screen time instead of passing all responsibility on to the software and/or tablet.
Many people have shared their success with the use of family device-free days. It’s pretty simple since all family members just need to stay away from technology for a day and interact with the other members of the family with no technology whatsoever.
These days are much better if you plan a game session together. It can be either full of physical activities or simple board games. You can spice things up as much as you want to keep it interesting.