With the new year upon us, how do you set screen time routines?
If your kids are like mine, they may have enjoyed a little too much screen time over the last few years…thank you Covid-19. And if your kids are like my kids, your kids might have spent the last couple of weeks using all of their free time on their computer or the Xbox, hoping to get a few solid hours of gaming in before dinner and bedtime hit.
But now, the new year has arrived and like all parents, we are trying to pull back on screen time, or at least set some boundaries for the new year ahead because time is flying by and we seem to see less and less of our kids are they get older. Time is scarce. And precious. And all too often, if I’m not ushering my girls from one sport to the next, I find them begging for time on their devices, sometimes to the detriment of their schoolwork.
So I decided it was time to set some screen time boundaries.
How much screen time is okay on school days? What about on weekends?
According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, the average teenager gets up to nine hours of screen time a day. Nine hours! The average kid between 8-12 years of age gets between 4-6 hours. That’s a lot of hours. That’s a lot of hours spent on mindless video games or being exposed to questionable content on popular sites such as Tik Tok or YouTube.
While longer hours online may be okay on the weekends, screen time during the school week should be limited and should not interfere with school work, family dinner or activities. At our house, the rule is you can’t turn on a screen until you have finished all homework. This rule backfired almost immediately when my daughter needed to use Google Translate to assist her with some Spanish homework, so we had to add a new rule. We had to set a designation to acknowledge that hours spent doing work for school are not the same as hours spent enjoying time online. Allowing my kids screen time to simply watch videos or play games gave them something to look forward to.
The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t officially weigh in on how much screen time is too much. For kids ages six and older, they simply recommend that kids and parents reach a reasonable decision together. For my family, that limit is 30 minutes per day on school days of non-school-related media usage and up to two hours per day on the weekend.
How to impose media restrictions and limitations on your kids
Although we are well into the school year, the new year is a great time to start with a fresh set of rules and restrictions. Just make rules clear and concise so everyone understands expectations. Designate a finite number of hours or minutes that can be spent enjoying screens- and be sure to define what screen time means to you! I have friends who refer to screen time as solely time spent on tablets, phones or computers, not TVs. At our house, screen time refers to TV, too.
Discuss how extra hours can be earned, for good behavior or grades. Talk about whether or not hours can be taken away for not listening or poor grades on school work. Do unused hours roll over? Or do unused hours expired? If you have a tween, like mine, who loves her time spent messaging friends, you will want to be clear from the start what happens to hours not spent.
If you find that the kids are starting to sneak time when they think you aren’t watching, try these tricks:
- Change the Wi-Fi password.
- Put parent control apps and restrictions on their phones (we shut down their devices at 8 pm with parental controls and they have to ask for more time if they want/have earned it)
- Unplug the Wi-Fi router every night at a certain time.
Consider taking a screen time pledge with your kids as a way of holding each other accountable. This pledge from Common Sense Media will help your kids understand that you limiting their screen time is to help, not punish them. Remind your kids that you are setting limits so they can spend their time excelling at school and pursuing other passions, not because you want them to think that screen time is bad or evil. Boundaries can be a good thing when they are clearly laid out.
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