One of the biggest concerns a modern parental figure has to worry about is screen time. With tablets, phones, TVs, and everything else being such a central part of daily life, doctors advise guardians to limit their children’s time on these devices.

However, it is also true that adult life is extremely busy, and sometimes the easiest way to occupy a kid’s time — and maintain your own mental health — is with a tablet or phone. Thankfully, there are many ways to incorporate screens safely and limit unhealthy screen time.

Screen Time Rules and Age

Many organizations have released information on the “ideal” amount of screen time for children. Generally, the recommendations are no screen time for children under two, one hour per day until age 12, and then two hours each day for teens and adults.

Because a growing amount of work, education, and entertainment involves the use of a screen, these numbers are no longer as accurate as they once were.

little girl playing on a tablet computer


Using the “Common Sense” Rule

The concerns about screen time stem from potential health issues like obesity and loss of vision, as well as a lack of parental engagement. However, screen time can also involve educational activities and act as a creative outlet. Because of this, some experts recommend a “common sense” rule rather than firm restrictions.

Essentially, limit purely entertainment screen time to the general age rules, but make exceptions for parent-guided education or video chatting with friends and relatives.

little boy watching a tablet screen


Ensuring a Child Has Quality Screen Time

To make sure a child is not simply vegging out in front of a screen or idly consuming content that may be dangerous for them, guardians should preview all apps, games, and videos before letting a child access them. Focus on providing interactive content that engages them, rather than options that only involve staring at the screen.

Understand that children might also see commercials or advertisements that contain inappropriate or misleading content and you might need to have discussions specific to these visuals.

little boy and dad learning on ipad


Find Ways to Be Active

Children should lead active lives with tons of playtime. However, it can be difficult to carve out large sections of a busy day for specific physical activities. Instead, find little moments to take breaks from screens and exercise.

Make a game out of who can do the most jumping jacks during a commercial break or have children do stretches while watching a show. Motion-controlled video games are also great ways to balance screen time and fun with staying active.

little girl meditating with guide on laptop computer


Rainy Days Happen

Not every day is going to be the perfect blend of ideal weather, lots of free time, and a good mood. Some days, it may be storming outside, leaving fewer options for physical activity. Other days, parents are going to be too busy to fully focus on their kids. Plus, even kids have bad days and need some time to just chill out.

Rather than setting strict daily rules for screen time, just let the rainy days happen. There will always be another opportunity for more family or outdoor time.

little girl in car on rainy day using tablet


Be Realistic

Guardians should not expect to be able to suddenly enforce device restrictions on their children. Rather than jumping straight to the recommendation of one to two hours per day, begin with smaller goals and work up.

Cutting screen time in half may be a good starting point. It can also help to refocus a kid’s screen time away from passive activities like watching TV toward more active games.

angry little girl with iphone being taken away


Prep For Bedtime

Tons of studies have proven that using a device right before bed can interfere with sleep and even lead to mood disturbances. Children are especially at risk of this.

Turn off all devices and have a bit of downtime for about 30 minutes to an hour before bed. It can also be helpful to limit screen time for several hours after waking up.

little girl watching tablet in bed


Create Device-Free Areas

Limiting screen time is important, but the method of doing so is equally integral. One of the easiest ways to ensure both parents and children are active in each other’s lives and not focusing on screens too much is to create device-free zones.

For example, put away all devices at meal times. Even common activities like watching TV while eating can reinforce both bad device habits and eating behaviors.

family on digital devices at dinnertime


Shift to Digital Literacy

As children age, they steadily become more aware of the content they engage with and capable of seeking out new options on their own. This is inevitable and uncontrollable. In addition to enforcing healthy habits concerning screen time, it is also important to teach digital literacy.

Even an hour of screen time a day can be harmful if the child is engaging with something dangerous. Encourage children to think critically about the things they see on the internet. Help them understand how to know if a website or video is trustworthy and if something appropriate for their age. Explain the potential dangers of advertisements and other misleading aspects of their devices.

child on computer looking at parental control screen


Learn How Much Socialization Happens Online

Children and teens in the modern age use the internet for socialization. The majority of the most popular games and apps have some way to communicate with others and social media is at the center of day-to-day interactions. While these are powerful tools for maintaining friendships with schoolmates, they can also be extremely dangerous.

Even young children need to know what is and is not appropriate to talk about online. As they grow up, make sure to address age-appropriate concerns, like cyberbullying, sexting, body image issues, and sharing personal information online. No matter how mature or responsible a child seems, always monitor their online activity.

little boy on tablet looking at facebook


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This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.