From texting with friends to online gaming, watching TikTok videos or streaming their favorite TV show, the hours children spend online can add up quickly. The average American spends two hours on social media daily, while teens spend around seven hours on screen time. With numbers like those, it’s no wonder parents are concerned about how much time their kids spend in front of their screens.
Thankfully, there are some things parents can do to manage and even limit their child’s screen time. Here are five of our favorite tips developed by experts to help parents create a healthier balance for their kids and their devices.
One of the best ways parents can reduce their kids’ screen time is to demonstrate limits themselves. Make sure you take breaks from the screen to go outside for a walk or do some household tasks between streaming shows or social media time. Have an uninterrupted conversation over a meal or a snack, or even pick up a book or magazine.
Experts say it’s key to consistently model this behavior where your kids can see it. This tip alone goes a long way to building your credibility with your children on this issue while helping them learn to keep screen time in proper proportion and perspective in their everyday lives.
One effective tool for controlling your child’s screen time is to set a schedule for when your child is permitted to use their devices. For example, you may decide that any time immediately after school ends is strictly for outdoor exercise, extracurricular activities and homework time.
You can limit screen time to one or two hours of streaming TV, social media or online videos. Enforcing the schedule is critical. This includes establishing negative consequences, such as temporarily confiscating devices for violating the schedule.
Another terrific way to foster better lifestyle and activity balance and reduce your child’s screen time is to create “screen-free zones” in your home. Parents can choose different ways to implement screen-free zones, such as ensuring that everyone, including parents, does not use any device at the dinner table during meals.
Another option is to establish a screen-free zone in certain rooms in the house that are to be used exclusively for device-free activities and purposes. These activities can include family board or card games, reading together, homework and study time or other screen-free hobbies.
Some children may be more used to their devices by the time their parents start to implement steps to intervene and limit their screen time than others. Long-time overuse can make it even harder to break the habit.
With more stubborn instances of “device dependence,” some parents may decide to install parental control apps on their kid’s devices.
The OEC Fiber and HomePass apps let parents set schedules and temporarily turn off Wi-Fi to select devices. This can take pressure off parents to continually be the “screen police.” The devices will automatically end the child’s screen time as decided in advance.
Our final tip is to recommend that you recognize your child’s compliance with the screen time balance and boundaries by permitting an occasional day of binging. This can be anything from their favorite TV show or movies to extra time on TikTok.
This practice also recognizes that there are good uses for devices and online activities as well. It’s all part of building a healthy, sustainable relationship with technology that should serve your children well—and throughout their lives.
Employing these tips should help parents greatly reduce the amount of time their kids spend on their devices and in front of their screens. By using this combination of scheduling, parental control apps and positive reinforcement, you’ll find a better balance and encourage a healthier and more diverse lifestyle for your children.
For more helpful hints on apps you should keep an eye on, check out Apps Every Parent Should Know to help better prepare you for helping your kids filter through the content and get back to what matters most, real face time.