9 Ways to Be Smart with Screen Time

One of the most common questions that parents ask us is, “How can I get my kid to spend less time looking at screens without it being a huge battle?”  Parents today are pulling their hair out trying to figure out how much screen time is right for their family.

That’s why we’ve put together 9 smart tips and tricks to stay safe on the screen, and let you know when it’s time to go screen-free!

  1. Model Healthy Electronic Use
    We worry about how much time our kids are spending on screens that we forget a very important fact: we are our childrens’ role models, and they will watch and copy how we interact with screens much more than they will listen to our rules and lectures.
    Tip: Download apps to track how often you are on your phone, how many times you unlock it, and how much time you spend on each app per day. You may be surprised at the amount of time you are actually spending on your phone!
  2. Know the Recommendations
    The American Association of Pediatric (AAP) recommends no screen time for kids under 2 years old, and up to one hour per day for children ages 2-5.  They emphasize that children need 8-12 hours of sleep per night, and should be spending one hour per day engaged in vigorous physical activity. Check out this article on the APP website for more information.
    Tip: Focus on adding positive and developmentally appropriate activities to your child’s day, and your child will naturally have less time for screens.
  3. Create a Family Media Use Plan for your Family
    The APP has a tool on their site that will help you create a customized and balanced screen time family plan.  This process will help you and your family get on the same page with a screen time plan that works for everyone.
    Tip: For access to Discover Hope’s (prettier) custom tool, start your 7 day free trial (no credit card required) of the Radiant Parenting Program. Sign up now to join us for our interactive online workshop on Oct 17 where a behavior expert will walk you through creating a custom plan for your family!
  4. Know What Your Child is Doing
    Make sure you know what your child is watching and playing. Preview shows, movies, and games before allowing your child to engage with them so you can make sure they are appropriate. It’s also great to watch screens or play with media WITH your child.  Many apps and shows are labeled as “educational” that really aren’t, so beware.
    Tip: Use commonsensemedia.com to read reviews about shows before allowing your child to watch them. PBS shows and games are proven to be educational, so those are great places to start.
  5. Go Screen Free
    Designate screen free zones in your home, such as your kids’ bedrooms, and the area that you and your family eat meals and snacks. Designate screen free times, such as one hour before bed, and during family time and meal time.
    Tip: Screen free zones and times are for parents too!
  6. Create Family Rules for Screen Time
    Have conversations with your child about the possible dangers of screen time, and set clear rules to help them avoid those dangers.  Some examples of rules would be “Only download apps, movies, and games that are appropriate for my age with an adult’s permission.”
    Tip: Make sure to talk with your child about what to do if he or she gets messages or photos that make them uncomfortable.  They need to know to tell a trusted adult right away!
  7. Encourage Other Activities
    Make sure your child is getting enough sleep, physical activity, social play time, and free play time.  Encourage your child to look at books, color, paint, play outside, play dress-up or make believe, play with friends, or to play with blocks, legos, or puzzles instead of engaging with screens.
    Tip: Brainstorm alternative fun activities with your child, and post up a “Instead of Screen Time I Can…” list in your home with their ideas.
  8. Set a Schedule and Be Consistent
    Let your kids know when they can and can’t use screen time in advance.  Designating specific days or times that screen time is allowed reduces the number of times you child will ask you if they can borrow your phone!  Once the schedule is set, make sure to keep it consistent and don’t negotiate.
    Tip: Create a weekly schedule for your child that clearly shows when screen time is available.  For access to our library of templates, start your 7 day free trial now.
  9. Advocate for Better Media Options for your Kids
    Wouldn’t it be great if Netflix had a feature where you could agree with your child on how long/how many episodes they can watch, and it would automatically turn off and encourage them to play, instead of auto-playing the next episode?  App designers currently use the same persuasive features and collect personal data for apps for young children as for adults, and we need to do a better job of protecting young minds from this!
    Tip: Advocate for better protection and child-friendly apps and privacy rules for young children.

It’s never too late to start being smart with screen time, and these 9 steps will set your child up for a successful and healthy life!