Managing Screen Time for Your Kids

As technology continues to evolve and appeal to the younger folks in our families, there has been a lot of research on the affects of “screen time” on children. It makes sense that their interest is peaked as they see their parents, older siblings, teachers, and other adults in their life use their smartphones, tablets, and laptops more and more. This research could and should teach us all important lessons about not only our children, but ourselves. Are we spending too much time in front of screens and not enough in front of our families and friends? We asked our family, friends, and community what they are doing to help limit screen time.

To combat technology, use technology.

Many of the tablets geared towards children, such as the LeapFrog, have built-in timers that will turn off a certain number of minutes. Others can also be set to only turn on during certain hours of the day. You can also limit what apps are allowed to be used – when and by whom (if you have multiple children using the same device).

However, there are other ways to limit screen time. There are apps specifically designed to track screen time, restrict certain apps altogether, restrict apps at certain times, reward kids for respecting screen time rules, and more. None of the folks we spoke to used an app, outside of the built-in technology of their device. Using another piece of technology to track time of another piece of technology does seem a little ironic! However, if you would like to learn more, here are a few available apps:

Other Ways to Track Time

Here are some other tips from friends who contributed to our Facebook post.

  • Use a kitchen timer or alarm clock. This way it becomes a normal sound, not mom or dad or [adult name] nagging to turn it off already.
  • Use popsicle sticks as a representation for 15-minute increments of screen time. Give them 14 sticks, for example. That would equate to 30 minutes a day for 7 days. Allow them to use it for a show, game, etc. If they use them up by midweek, than no more screens for the rest of the week. On Sunday, they get 14 more.
  • Use a checklist to show what are the most important tasks after school, such as putting backpack away, doing homework, eating dinner with the family, picking out outfit for the next day, brushing teeth, and reading. Once a certain number of those are done, than they are allowed to watch 30 minutes of television.

A Healthy Balance

Howard Tech does not claim to be an expert in this area. There have been many studies and research that show that technology can and should play a role in children’s education. Programs such as S.T.E.M. (Science Technology Engineering Math) and S.T.E.A.M. (same as previous but adds Arts) are available, or accessible, in most school systems across the country. These programs introduce technology in a healthy environment. It’s up to parents and caregivers to make sure that children are balancing free play, activity, creative imagination, and time exploring nature and the great outdoors after school, weekends, vacations, holidays and summer break.

At these times it’s easy to become critical of our parenting, or caregiving, and worry about what’s the “right way” to balance it all. Don’t be too critical. For the most part, we are all doing the best we can AND technology is a vital part of our future. It’s just not familiar because it’s not the way “we were raised.” That doesn’t make technology any less valuable. It just means we need to be mindful of what and how we want our children, our future to focus their attention, their time, and their values.

There are also many factors to consider when setting up a plan for your child – quality vs. quantity of material, age, your child’s personality, your family values, and trust vs. filter and monitoring tools. Here are some other valuable resources if you are struggling in finding the balance or have questions:

American Academy of Pediatrics Family Media Plan

American Academy of Pediatrics’ “Media Use in School-Aged Children and Adolescents”

“Realistic screen time solutions for kids (and their parents)” from NBC News


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