Screen time and kids can be a touchy subject among parents. Numerous studies have been published on the subject and everyone seems to have their own opinion on how much is too much, but the data is conflicting. Some claim that screen time can negatively impact the development of language and social skills, wreak havoc on a child’s sleep, and cause stress, anxiety, and aggression, while others focus on all of the positives, like the development of motor skills and coordination, increased creativity and expressive language, and better communication with family and friends.
Regardless of your views and opinions, we live in a day and age where (almost) everything is done digitally, so rather than resisting electronic use, perhaps we should focus more on setting boundaries on how our children spend time on their digital devices – and for how long. If you want to know how to limit screen time for kids, we’re sharing 7 practical tips to get you started!
17 Pros and Cons of Screen Time for Kids
PROS OF SCREEN TIME FOR KIDS
- Can increase interaction between parents and children
- Helps keep kids safe in emergencies
- Educational apps and games allow kids to learn and develop new skills
- Helps kids stay in touch with family and friends
- Games and apps can help develop a child’s motor skills and coordination
- Can increase creativity and expressive language, especially in children who have fine motor challenges that make traditional writing challenging
- Offers a way for nonverbal children to communicate
CONS OF SCREEN TIME FOR KIDS
- Parents don’t always monitor what their children are being exposed to
- Can become addictive
- Some studies suggest it can slow language development
- Causes sensory overload in some children
- Can increase stress and anxiety
- Decreases development of social skills
- Keeps kids sedentary
- Some studies suggest it can cause aggressive behavior
- Can negatively impact sleep
- Exposure to social media can lead to an unhealthy body image
How Much Is Too Much Screen Time for Kids?
Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer when it comes to setting parameters for screen time for kids. A lot of variables need to be considered, including the child’s age, how they are spending their time online, whether they suffer from developmental challenges like ADHD, autism, or ODD, etc.
With that said, the general consensus seems to suggest that screen time should be avoided for children under 18 months with the exception of video chatting. When introducing screens to kids at the year-and-a-half mark, a lot of the online literature suggests limiting exposure to educational shows and apps to begin with, and limiting children aged 2-5 to a maximum of one hours of screen time per day.
Again, there is no hard and fast rule when it comes to kids and screen time. It all comes down to how the time is being used, if it’s interfering with other, healthier activities, if the parent notices an increase in poor behaviors and/or a decrease in quality of sleep, if it’s creating stress and anxiety, etc.
If you want to know how to limit screen time for kids, we’ve sharing our best tips below!
How to Limit Screen Time for Kids [7 Tips]
1. Lay down ground rules
If you’re in the midst of trying to figure out how to limit screen time for kids and you’re worried how your little one will react to the idea of less time on their tablet and/or smartphone, a good first step is to have an open and honest discussion with your child. Instead of arbitrarily imposing new rules on him or her, make them part of the decision-making process. Explain the dangers of too much screen time, ask them how they’re using their electronic devices, and come up with some ground rules together. You may want to cut back overall usage, set guidelines on certain types of activity (i.e. YouTube or social media), or make screen time contingent on other behaviors (i.e. finishing homework and doing chores).
2. Be a good role model
It’s no secret that our children watch our every move, so if you want to know how to limit screen time for kids, it only makes sense that you need to be a good role model. While it’s fine to mindlessly scroll through your Instagram feed for a few minutes when you need to decompress, spending hours upon hours on social media isn’t the kind of precedent you want to set for your child. Get into the habit of enforcing screen-free time throughout the day to engage with your family, and be more purposeful with how you’re using your electronic devices around your children.
3. Actively encourage other activities
Some research suggests that screen time contributes to obesity in children due to a lack of physical activity, and while I agree that electronic devices cause kids to be more sedentary, it’s our duty as parents and caregivers to encourage our kids to be more active. It’s really easy to use tablets as babysitters, and we need to do a better job of getting involved and encouraging ourselves and our children to get up and get moving! If you want to know how to limit screen time for kids, get into the habit of organizing fun activities that get your kids away from their screens.
4. Set daily time limits
If you’re worried your little one is spending too much time on their electronic devices, another great tip is to impose a daily time limit. For example, you may only allow one hour of screen time after school on weekdays, and 2 hours on weekends and holidays after homework and chores have been completed. Worried you won’t be able to enforce a rule like this successfully? Have no fear! There are tons of apps you can install on your child’s device to allow you to monitor and limit screen time. A quick search on Google will give you options for your specific device!
5. Create ‘electronic free’ zones and times
As mentioned earlier, some studies indicate that screen time may cause sensory overload, interfere with sleep, decrease the development of social skills, and impair language development. If you’re trying to figure out how to limit screen time for kids, consider designating certain places and/or times of the day as ‘screen free’. For example, if your child struggles with sleep, you may make his or her bedroom a screen-free zone, or if your child is struggling with language and/or social skills, you may prohibit screen time at meals, during playdates, in the car, and at any other time your child has a chance to socialize with others.
6. Use it as a reward
Like many children, my daughter enjoys watching toy unboxing tutorials on YouTube, and since I’m not a fan of her spending her online time watching other people play with toys, I’ve turned it into a reward. I bought a reward chart we can customize ourselves, and we worked together to identify a list of chores my daughter can take on each day in order to earn time on YouTube. At first, she earned a certain amount of YouTube time for each check she earned, but now that she’s older and in full-time school, she knows that she has to complete all of her daily chores in order to earn screen time after school. It has been very effective and motivating!
7. Setup parental controls
I touched on the idea of setting up parental controls earlier, but wanted to call it out as a separate point as I think it’s important. There are lots of great parental control apps you can install on your child’s electronic devices that not only allow you to monitor what your child is doing (and seeing) online, but also enable you to set time limits on their screen time. This can be really helpful in situations when you can’t monitor your child closely (i.e. while you’re on an important phone call, when your child is with a babysitter, etc.).
If you want to know how to limit screen time for kids, I hope the tips and ideas in this post prove useful to you! Remember to educate your children and include them in the decision making process, to be a good role model, to set limits, and encourage activities without screens as often as possible!