Here’s a question that can strike fear in every working mom’s heart: How are you doing at limiting screen time? Do you have strict limits that are in place, perhaps with specific tools like iPhone’s new screen time limits or the kinds of limits you can impose via WiFi routers? How do you “share” screen time with different caregivers — i.e., if Grandma watches your child after school, does she “get” an hour to bestow on the child? What are the screen time rules that work for your family?
For my $.02, we stink at screen time limits for both kids. My youngest really likes iPad games but otherwise prefers YouTube videos to television and movies…while my eldest loves it ALL: Netflix, YouTube, Minecraft, iPad games, etc. iPad is easy enough to limit with iPhone’s screen time limits, but because he “gets” his screen time from so many different physical options (TV via Fire Stick, computer, iPad, iPhone, etc. — and different geographical locations, so a WiFi router won’t help that!), it’s harder to limit.
Plus, if he’s up early, my husband (also an early riser) is inclined to let him watch TV for two hours… which doesn’t always get conveyed to his after-school caregiver so that she can limit his Minecraft time.
(And this doesn’t even get into the new thing we’re doing where he can “earn” 15 more minutes of screen time if he reads a book for 15 minutes!) He’s doing really well in school, so it isn’t a huge concern, but I’m sure I’d be horrified at all those studies about how screen time is changing our kids’ brains for the worse… if I could really bring myself to care about this particular aspect of parenting.
(I did buy a Circle a while ago, but it was limiting my own screen time in unintentional ways, so I unplugged it until I “learned more…” and now I realize that was several years ago and I have yet to learn more. Whoops.)
How about you, ladies — what screen time rules work for your family? Are you the Screen Time Sheriff in your house? How do you limit screen time with your children, and how do you share screen time with other caregivers?
Photo via our personal family collection — all rights reserved.
- How to Set Screen Rules That Stick [Common Sense Media]
- Parents Share The Screen Time Rules That Actually Work For Them [Huffington Post]
- Forget Screen Time Rules — Lean In To Parenting Your Wired Child, Author Says [NPR]
- 8 Rules for Family Screen Time [Parenting]
- Why We Need to Embrace the Joy of Screen Time with Our Kids [Working Mother]
- (Note that if you have a mesh network like Google WiFi or Orbi then the network may also have screen time options…)
Until it becomes a behavior problem (and it hasn’t so far), we don’t limit time. We do limit programs to be age appropriate (relatively speaking – Jeopardy is theoretically not appropriate for toddlers, but my toddler LOVES that show). So far it hasn’t, and screen time is only exciting for so long before my kids get bored and find something else to do.
i just pictured a toddler watching Jeopardy and it sounds adorable…. my brother LOVED “the price is right” at age 3. I never figured out why!
She claps when someone finds a daily double!
she should make a get well card for Alex Trebek :-)
Pigpen's Mama says
My 4 year old loves the Great British Bake Off. I’m encouraging any interest in cooking or baking, because WINNING for me.
We just do 30 mins a day for our 2yr old, period. She does not do any tablet or phone games ever. We use screen time if she’s getting tired in the late afternoon and she wants to chill. We don’t use screens in public (grocery store, restaurant, etc) to entertain her because I think she needs to learn how to be a human and interact or observe. If things get hairy at a restaurant then we leave. We don’t enforce any limits on plane rides, car trips, or when she’s sick. But she’ll usually only watch something for 45 mins at most anyways.
That makes sense. Comment in moderation but we’re pretty strict with my under-two but I’d like to adopt a 30 minute rule when he’s of age. I saw someone with a phone dock attached to their pram and while I’m normally a ‘you do you’ parent, I was pretty horrified. We were in a park, there were birds, and dogs, and people playing quiddich, the world is your tv!
People playing quidditch! I’d stop to watch that.
Funniest thing I ever saw: in a local 5K, dad pushing a *triple* stroller with what looked like triplets aged ~4-5. Each of them had their own tablet and was glued to it while dad went round the course. But that’s a ‘you do you’ thing for me, not an ‘i’m judging you’.
We do screen time like we do treats – sporadic and unpredictable, not linked to any particular behavior as a reward. Sometimes it’s a family movie with popcorn on a rainy day, sometimes it’s tablet time while kid 1 is sick in bed or is getting his hair cut (kid 2, 7mo, has just started getting interested in my phone as an object) on airplanes all rules go out the window. No real hard and fast rules but the underlying principle is to minimise screen time substituting for family interaction.
It is hard not to judge! I think a lot of parents are really afraid of public meltdowns so they proactively use the screen instead of seeing what happens first. Understandably so, because a lot of America isn’t understanding of developmentally normal behavior. But they’re missing out on a lot of developmental opportunities. And isn’t being bored during an adult dinner just part of being a kid?? And once they’re 6-7 they can interject with their own complex ideas as well.
I’ve got an under 2 and try to stick to the APA guidelines of no screentime beyond Skype/Facetime although I know these have been somewhat discredited. I will, however, play the garbage truck or London bus channel for hair trimming, nail cutting, etc and when we have to face that transatlantic flight, I’ll happily hand over the ipad. We have a bus commute and typically read books but sometimes we’ll look at photos of family on my phone if the traffic is bad and he’s getting squirrely.
We’ve had the BBC on in the evening because of ongoing Brexit drama and my kiddo largely ignores it, unless he sees a bus, police car, taxi, or a dog.
I have an under-2, too, and very much the same screen use: lots of video chat with family, some low stimulation videos to get through nail clipping (we like Mary, the Japanese YouTube star cat – the videos are very slow paced and without music or sound effects), and the occasional scrolling through pictures or animal video (I do supplement my reading of picture books with YouTube – I’m not that good at doing the peacock call without a model). There’s no TV in our house, but some background Twitter, or Twitch from my husband, that I try to keep to a minimum
We end up with about 20 minutes a day for our 3yo (she watches a Daniel Tiger in the morning while I dress her and then get the bags packed up).
We didn’t start with that until she was a bit over two, but I have to admit her baby brother (now 13 months) gets more than she did at that age. It’s just tough not to — when we put on Daniel Tiger for the toddler, he naturally goes over to check out the TV. Hopefully it is not disintegrating his brain.
Neither kid gets any phone or tablet time (we don’t have a tablet). No games, no YouTube, etc. The few times we tried it with the 3yo it turned her into a monster so we decided on a hard no.
My daughter watches anywhere from 30-90 minutes of age appropriate youtube videos and daniel tiger and is 21 months. I think it’s amazing if you’re able to wait until 2, but she’s home all day with me (with 5 hours of childcare where I work PT), so I can’t get anything done at this age without it. I solo parent a lot when I’m home as husband works a lot.
We do give her our phone if she’s having a meltdown coming back from the park because she’s learned to wiggle out of her stroller. Husband and I also enjoy our walks, so not trying to cut that out. we give it to her in the car if it’s a 30+ minute car trip and she’s getting antsy. We never go out to eat with her because she’s incredibly high energy and cannot sit still. I give it to her in the morning some days for 15 minutes if my husband can’t watch her and she’s having a melt down, getting into things like turning on the bathtub water constantly, trying to climb onto the desk in our bedroom, climbing onto the bathroom counter etc. We’ve babyproofed everything we can, but some of these things are impossible.
I don’t know, it’s not great, but she’s ahead on all milestones and is reading, playing, interacting with us / doing other things for the 10+ hours a day she’s not on a screen, so I try to cut myself slack. I think parents should be kinder to themselves in general, modern day parenting imposes so much “solo” parenting that’s unlike previous generations where it really was a village and moms/dads didn’t work as much as they do now.
You say “it’s not great” but for what it’s worth this DOES seem great to me. It seems like you are using screen time strategically to make life calmer/happier/safer for you guys and for her. And I think you’re totally right that it’s much easier to limit screen time when a kid is at daycare for most of the day. I know if I was home with my toddler she’d definitely get more screen time than she does now when she’s at school from 8 – 5.
Mama Llama says
For our preschooler, we don’t do any screen time on the weekdays. We just don’t have time for it.* On the weekends she gets 1.5 hours total each day, split into morning and afternoon times. If we didn’t have limits she would watch several hours a day and then be very cranky. We started the weekend screen time when she dropped her afternoon nap and started waking up early, just to give ourselves a break. We don’t have any tablets in the house, so all the screen time is streaming shows or Sesame Street online games.
*We are fortunate enough to generally have both parents home during bedtime. On the rare occasions when I have do bedtime alone, I will give the older one my phone to play a very low key game for 15-20 minutes while I get the baby down.
For the baby, no screen time at all. He will definitely look at the TV if it’s on, so I take him in another room when the older child is watching it.
How do you keep the baby from crawling into the room with the TV? Maybe I need to install some baby gates.
Not the OP but we have a gated family room/den, so could stick one kid in there and other kid in the more formal living room. We only have one for right now, but that’s theoretically how I’d do it.
LO is still under 2, so screen time is new to us. I broke it out during a bout of stomach bug and then a few weeks later we had a flight, so he got “his” iPad (I had a super old iPad from like 2010 that I wiped clean and created an Apple kids account/Google kids account for him on and it essentially only has youtube kids and a couple apps, like bubble popping). He is still at the age where it is out of sight out of mind, so since we’ve been back from the trip and he’s been healthy he has had zero screen time.
As he gets older I like the 30min limit on weekdays and maybe 90min on the weekend. I’m really not committing to anything right now because I have no idea how it’ll go when hes older, we have another baby, etc. I like that I set up the iPad to be totally under my control – I can limit his screen time and require my permission before he does anything on it, like get a new app.
Nanny share does not use screen time at all – the three kiddos entertain each other. I suppose that’s another thing that could change when they get older and start dropping naps, but I figure he’ll be in preschool by then. Nanny is sometimes on the iPad herself, whatsapping her friends, and they don’t even acknowledge it – the three of them are so into playing/fighting over toys.
I’ll play! I have a 3.5 and a 1.5 year old. They’re home all day with my husband, my mom, or me. They get an episode or two of something like Daniel Tiger or Paw Patrol in the AM at breakfast, repeat at lunch, and again, repeat at dinner if I am solo-parenting (which is several nights a week). The nights when we’re all home, we eat in the dining room with no TV. Some evenings, they get half an episode of something while we do snacks right before bed, some nights it’s a full episode. They get no tablets and no phones.
I don’t love how much they get and the timing. On one hand, it feels like a lot, but it also works for us. Honestly, they eat better because if they stop taking bites, I pause the TV, and they take a bite. While I worry about setting them up for mindless binge eating, I don’t really think that’s the case. I grew up with the TV on all the time, and now I despise TV and am a healthy eater. I’m at the point where I don’t even feel it’s “missed” time to talk and things because we do plenty of that outside of meals. We play, we walk, we do baths, and we talk the whole time, partially because they are fed and content.
My 3.5 year old dropped naps and now the only way he’ll get any “rest” in the afternoon, when he desperately needs it, is the TV. So, there are plenty of days he gets more than the 2 hours. But he also gets bored eventually with the TV, runs around a lot, is very imaginative, and is overall a well-rounded 3.5 year old, so I’m good with it.
6 and 2 year old. We were pretty good with limited to no screen time with our oldest before 2 (we’d have it on a lot when she was really little, but never on kid shows and she really didn’t “watch”), but around 2 with her we started using it as a baby sitter in the morning while we were getting ready for work and then again in the evening for a wind-down after dinner. This continues to this day, but the youngest definitely started watching way before age 2 since kid shows were on and way more interesting then ESPN or something to her. All told, they get well less than 60 minutes a day on weekdays. Weekends are much harder. Our youngest still naps for at least 1.5 hours both days and we’ve gotten in the habit of letting our oldest watch a movie or play on the iPad during this entire time each day to keep her quiet. That, plus longer mornings, means our oldest is getting probably close to 3 hours a day on winter weekend days. UGH. I’m hoping this will improve this summer with more activities and more outdoor time, but honestly it’s hard to keep her quiet and still get done what I need to do during naptime, so it may just be a necessary evil for our family.
Same here. Our kids are older (5, 7, 10) get 30 minutes a day during the week, while DH is making dinner (plus occasional movies/playdates), and then our older two get an extra 30 minutes before bed. On the weekends, they can have screen time for about an hour or so until we get up (they can’t turn it on until 7:30, which motivates them to sleep longer – I’m way more well rested now than before!), and then usually another hour before dinner. And sometimes, one of us has a call or one of us traveling or all of the above, and they get more time. TBH, the older two don’t need it as a distraction, but the youngest does, and sometimes we need to get stuff done. We also let them have their devices on the whole plane ride (although sometimes they are reading ebooks), and we used to occasionally at restaurants if it’s going to be a long dinner out – like if we’re meeting friends and we want to socialize, we will. We don’t do that very much anymore, since most of our friends also have kids and would rather socialize at the playground/over ice cream. Also, we watch a ton of sports, which somehow doesn’t count as screen time? Usually I tell my kids that they have to be doing something in front of the TV, like reading or puzzles or board games.
Oh, nanny only does screen time if it’s in the permissible windows (like if she’s staying late), but sometimes she asks if the kids can watch a movie (like if it’s raining), which I usually OK.
7 and 2. Speaking mostly about our 7 year old since the 2 year old doesn’t seem to care much yet…. Our kids’ screen time at home is pretty limited – our tv is in the basement and we don’t have a computer or other device in the common area, and while both my husband and and I have tablets and smartphones, the kids (well, the 7 year old) knows that these are mom and dad’s device and off limits to them. So they pretty much get no screen time on weekdays and weekend is limited to FaceTiming with grand parents and cousins and maybe watching a movie once or twice a month. And football on Sunday with daddy when it is football season. She does get to listen to audiobooks and podcasts, but even with those, we turn it on and put the device out of reach.
We found early on with our oldest that we had to be really tough with the screen time limits because she had huge tantrums when we tried to turn the screen off or when we told her she couldn’t have any screen time. And when she did have screen time, she could watch for hours- she’s not the type to get bored and do other things.
The other thing we are realizing is that she is inundated with screens wherever she goes in life – she gets a huge amount of screen time at school, there are screens whenever we go to restaurants, everyone else has screens so when she goes to a friends house more often than than not the play date becomes hiding out with her friend’s iPad. I feel like I can’t control the amount of screen time she gets when we are not at home, so I should be pretty strict when we are home.
Having said all that, I do periodically feel guilty that she might be missing out? She was at her dance rehearsal the other day and while the kids were waiting around for their turn, she was the only one without a screen to keep her busy backstage. She kept hovering next to other kids and asking if she could share. I felt really bad- the next rehearsal I encouraged her to bring some games, so she brought Spot It and CodeNames, but no one wanted to play with her since they had tablets, so she played by herself. I don’t know… I worry that at some point our strict screen limits will make her feel left out with her peers. (I remember not having a tv in our house til I was seven and I was the only one in class that didn’t have a favorite Saturday morning cartoon.)
So while I’m totally ok with our current limited screen free, I wonder if I should be increasingly looking for ways to help her self regulate screen time better rather than just strictly limiting it.
My kids are 8 & 5, and our screen time has gradually increased to the point where I’d like to reduce it. Any tips or suggestions on how to walk back that privilege?
My youngest usually watches TV 30 minutes before preschool and they often watch at least an hour or two in the afternoon and evening. Sometimes we watch a show as a family above that. Weekends can be a hot mess of several hours of various screens. Between work travel, a separate crunch period, and winter weather we’ve taken the path of least resistance.
While we can be lax about time, we are very strict on content. They only watch PBS, approved YouTube channels, and certain other approved shows/DVDs. The iPad apps are ones I like without too much flashing screens or annoying noises.
We just re-introduced screen time during the week in the evening for our second grader.. If he gets homework, dinner, shower and ready for bed, he can play on his ipad for a few minutes until bedtime. It’s generally only 15 minutes, but it motivates him to get the routine done promptly and he likes the relaxation. So maybe make the screen time a reward instead of a right. On the weekends, extra time can be earned with reading.
CPA Lady says
Now that husband has stopped traveling for work, kiddo watches less tv than she used to.
She has to be 100% ready to go out the door in the morning before the netflix goes on, which typically means she watches 10-15 minutes of tv in the morning. In the evening she’s getting better at playing independently and really enjoys coloring or going for walks, so we’ve been doing more of that. She watches about 30-45 minutes of tv most nights, some way less, some more. I’m happy with her overall level.
My mom totally creates a monster by letting her watch youtube videos on her ipad when she visits. That’s a whole other level of watching tv that we had to nip in the bud. Kid gets sucked into netflix, but its nothing like those crazy weird youtube videos, that I am not at all a fan of.
She watched about twice this much when I was parenting alone most of the time. It was not ideal, but whatever.
We are pretty lax on screen time but have a hard No on you tube as well. We briefly had the kids you tube app and even if you pick what content they are watching they can easily click over for the mindless videos of other kids opening toys. It turns my preschooler into a mindless monster way moreso than watching paw patrol on Netflix.
I’ve got a 3.5 and 2 year old (and a 3rd one still baking). We had a rough go at potty training (horrible #2 situation) that ultimately got resolved with some after dinner ipad-potty time every night. He has a few games he likes which I think are educational (Moose Math anyone?) and he loooooves the Sesame Street app. His 2 year old sister loves to watch with him (yes, while he sits on the potty). I’ve been trying to wean him off of this pooping-ipad association or at least keep it short (“Okay, one sesame street video of your choice and one of your sister’s choice and then we’re going to put it away.”) but sometimes I will let them snuggle up together for another 15 minutes on the sofa afterwards b/c they are just so cute snuggling each other and watching sesame street videos together and also sometimes I could use the time to get a few things done.
Otherwise, we generally do one full length Sesame Street episode on Saturday mornings (which is the only day of the week when we can sleep in, so I make a “breakfast snack” and pre-fill sippee cups every Friday night so that Saturday mornings when my son comes in our bedroom all I have to do is pull my daughter out of her crib and turn on Sesame Street and then we get an extra 52 minutes to let us “sleep in” (aka lay in bed half listening to Sesame Street in the next room until 7:45).
And of course on planes I let them watch as much as they want.
It works for us and yet I still sometimes feel guilty about even that much (particularly the ipad-potty bit after dinner every night). This parenting gig is crazy right?
I grew up watching absurd amounts of television, and I don’t want that for my kids (ages 2 and 5). We’re currently at about 10-15 minutes a day of screen time due to using Daniel Tiger as a bribe for toilet tries, but our general norm is 15 minutes a couple times a week, mostly FaceTime.
We don’t have any hard rules on screen time. Kiddo is 3, about to turn 4. Kiddo usually doesn’t watch much during the week because there’s not much time in the evening, and screen time always makes the transition to dinner and bedtime routine (or anything else) difficult.
Most weekends, we have one day at home where DH and I are working on the house or yard, and we let Kiddo watch a couple of hours of TV (at least) throughout the day while we get stuff done. The other weekend day, we try to have more family time, but often, we’ll let Kiddo watch something when we get home from a day full of activities.
We moved a few months ago, and Daniel Tiger was our babysitter (we were home, of course, just packing). Kiddo basically stopped watching Daniel Tiger after we moved because he was sick of it.
We’ve been pretty lenient with screen time at home with the almost 4 year old. But he’s been in daycare since he was 3 months old with no screen time at all during the day. He probably gets 30 min to an hour a day at home, with more on the weekend. But I think it’s really fun! We watch movies together and talk about them. It spurns a ton of creativity on his end. We are watching all the animated disney movies, and he gets really into the musicals and now makes up his own songs. He does a ton of imaginative play where he makes his own movies and acts them out with his friends (usually it’s some sort of battle or race away from a bad guy).
The one thing I have cut off is YouTube. I can’t control what content pops up and I saw some weird ads that I didn’t like. So we just eliminated that App.
I’m sure we’ll have to keep an eye on it as he gets older, but for now I just don’t see it detracting from his development.
Two Cents says
Kids are 4 and 6. They have no screen time except when they are on a flight, which is about three times a year. No screens at home, in car, in restaurants etc. I grew up watching a ton of TV and in retrospect it was not good for me. So we just decided from the very beginning we would have no screens. It’s also very helpful that my kids are close in age and get along well so they are always playing with one another.