How to Limit Your Child’s Screen Time

video games

You can limit your child’s screen time by following the steps below.

  1. Limit access to devices 
  2. Limit access to the internet 
  3. Remove screens from their bedroom 
  4. Have a screen time schedule 
  5. Create a family screen time agreement 

If you’re reading this article you probably already have a sense that too much screen time may be negatively impacting your child’s health and development. Since the introduction of smartphones and tablets, screen time has increased dramatically for children and adults alike and it’s difficult to decide where to draw the line.

In my work as a counsellor I have seen how excessive screen time can cause aggravate depression and anxiety by contributing to social isolation and physical inactivity. The Canadian Pediatric Society released a report in 2019 to address this issue. Unfortunately, it didn’t offer specific recommendations on how much time is appropriate.

Instead it encouraged parents to be involved in managing the screen time of their kids and model healthy screen time behaviour. In my article How Much Screen Time is Too Much, I argue that any screen time which interferes with your child’s healthy development is a problem. Suffice to say that if your gut is telling you they’re on screens too much, they probably are.

Limit his access to screens 

The first step to limit your child’s screen time is controlling access to their devices. This puts you in the driver’s seat to determine when and how long they can access screens. How you will do this will depend on the type of device your child is using. Start by making a list of all your child’s devices and then figure out how to set time limits on the one device at a time.

This may take some time, but it will be well worth it once you’ve mastered control of their digital toys. If this seems too complicated an easier way is to physically take the device or game controller away but this will only allow you to control it when you’re physically present. Here are some helpful tutorials for setting up screen time limits for the following devices.

iPhone and iPad
Windows 10
Mac Computer
Nintendo Switch

Limit access to the internet  

There are many software applications available to manage and limit your child’s screen time online. The benefit of these is that there is a centralized control that can control all their devices at once.

It gives you more flexibility in terms of when, how long, and which devices, apps, and content they can access online. Circle Home Plus is one product that helps you do this. Disclosure statement: I do not receive any remuneration from Circle, in my searches online this appeared to be one of the better products.

Circle allows you to  control any device that is connected to your internet router. For example, if your child’s friends came over and they were hanging out in their room alone you could put a parental filter on your child’s friend’s phone so they don’t look up any content that is not age-appropriate.

The downside of Circle is that it only allows you to control devices access to the internet and there are ways your son can circumvent this software. If your child has downloaded videos onto his phone or tablet, or if they has video games they can play offline they’ll still be able to get plenty of screen time even with the Circle application active. See the video below for a product review and tutorial for how Circle works and what it can do. 

Remove screens from tHEIR bedroom

Your child may have a TV or desktop computer in his room, but controlling screen time will be almost impossible with this arrangement, and it will also make it more difficult for him to sleep.

If your child is having trouble sleeping read my article on How to Protect Your Sons Sleep. Remove any large screens from their bedroom. If they need to do homework have them do it on a laptop or desktop in a common area of the house so they’re less likely to procrastinate.

If your child is a gamer they will likely protest this because when they are gaming they’ll be talking with his friends. Forcing them to play in a common area is a good thing because it will help them to increase awareness of their language and volume level while gaming to respect the needs of others in the home.

This increased self-awareness will help them to be a better roommate and neighbour when they eventually moves out. 

Have a screen time schedule 

Once you control your child’s access to screens you should create a screen time schedule to promote healthy activities in balance with screen time. At the very least this schedule should include no screen time during sleeping hours, but the rest will be up to you and your values.

For example, you may want to make mealtimes a screen-free zone. You may also consider limiting access to certain apps on his phone while he’s at school to help him stay on task. Your child’s age and maturity will also determine how much online freedom he is allowed.

As a general rule if screens are getting in the way of responsibilities like homework and chores they should be limited. The American Association of Pediatricians has a helpful online tool for creating a Family Media Plan on their website here

Create family screen time agreement 

Having a family screen time agreement will not only help your child develop good screen etiquette but will also promote connection and family togetherness. Make sure that whatever rules you put in place are followed by the adults as well.

Some examples of this could be, not looking at your phone while you are having a conversation with someone, or turning off your phone while doing certain family activities together.

Brainstorm ideas with your kids about what they would like to see in the agreement. In the end print the agreements out, have everyone sign it and put it somewhere where people can see it. Undoubtedly you will sometimes break the rules in which case you give permission to your teens to call you on it which they will enjoy.

Though teenagers will moan and complain about having to take a break from screens, you are helping to create healthy habits and brain pathways that will set them up for success in the future and make them more sociable and mature young adults. 

What have you found helpful in managing your sons screen time? If you have a question or helpful tip feel free to leave a comment below.

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