Most parents have a love-hate relationship with screen time. On the one hand, you may not be able to get anything done without handing your child their iPad or setting them up on Netflix for a few hours. On the other hand, you know all that screen time isn’t ideal—and then there are the inevitable tantrums that ensue when it’s time to move onto another activity.
Here are some expert tips on how to limit screen time for kids.
1. Be a Good Role Model
Before we get started on how to limit your kids’ screen time, it’s important for you to model good behavior—and that means putting down your own phone during meals, conversations, and other activities. “Do as I say, not as I do,” is never effective when it comes to parenting. Show your child that they don’t need to be on an electronic device at all times.
2. Establish Times to Unplug
Whether it’s an entire weekend or an hour or two a day, meet your child where they’re at and slowly increase their amount of screen-free time until you’ve reached a level that feels appropriate for your family. Make sure their iPad and other electronics are out of reach and don’t make any exceptions. Soon, it will become second nature for your child to put down the iPad or turn off the TV during these times.
3. Set Up Alternatives to Screens
Why do kids love screens so much? Probably because they provide easily accessible entertainment. By giving your child fun alternatives to screens, you can make other activities just as enticing. Set up a space with art supplies and coloring sheets or create a reading nook in your child’s bedroom. Help them rediscover old toys or create an area in the living room or kitchen where they can play while still being close to you—younger kids especially can have difficulty playing in their bedrooms or playrooms if you’re not around, which may prompt them to turn to screens instead.
4. Make Screen Time Something They Earn
A lot of parents take screen time away as a punishment, but instead, make it something your child has to earn. Making screen time a privilege is a great way to limit the amount of time they use their devices, while also rewarding good behavior.
5. No Screens in the Bedroom
It’s hard to regulate your child’s screen time if they have a TV and tablet in their room. Make the bedroom a screen-free zone. This way, when they go to bed at night, you can be assured that they’re not huddling under the covers with their iPad.
6. Use a Passcode
If your child has a smartphone or tablet, set a passcode on it—and don’t tell them what it is. That way, whenever they want to use their device, they’ll need to ask you first. While you’re at it, install other parental controls that help you monitor how your child is using their devices and how much time they spend on them.
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