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Screen Time and Kids: The Ultimate Guide for Parents

Updated: May 3


A parent taking away the tablet from a young child

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Balancing the good and bad of screen time is tough. As a parent in the digital age, the topic of screen time is always there, and it can feel overwhelming. We hear all these scary stories about too much screen time and the dangers online. But, we also know that tech is a big part of our kids' world and future.


In this guide, we'll help you handle screen time, without going to extremes. We'll cover everything from how screens affect your child to setting fair limits and finding fun alternatives. We've got your back!


How Much Screen Time Is Appropriate?


Here´s the deal:


No researcher knows your child better than you. The guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) or the World Health Organization (WHO) aren't one-size-fits-all. They can, however, serve as a good starting point.


The official stance of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is that:


  • children under 18 months should avoid screens, except for video chatting.

  • For children 2 to 5 years, high-quality programming should be limited to 1 hour per day, with parents watching and discussing content with them.

  • For kids older than 6, the goal is to balance media time with other healthy activities.


Remember, moderation is key, and the goal isn't to eliminate screens completely but to use them in a way that complements a child's overall well-being.


How Does Screen Time Affect Your Child?


Screen time doesn´t affect all children in the same way. Some are more drawn to screens, while others aren´t as interested. Similarly, some kids may react more negatively to screen time than others.


You might be wondering:


How can I tell if my child is having a bad reaction or is overexposed to screens?


A child screaming and having a tantrum

Increased Anxiety

If you notice a sudden increase in your child's anxiety levels or difficulty in controlling their emotions, excessive screen time might be the reason. The constant influx of stimuli from various devices can overwhelm young minds.


Social Isolation

Overreliance on screens can lead to social withdrawal, with children preferring virtual interactions over real-world relationships. It's crucial to observe whether your child's screen habits are affecting their social skills and interactions.


Obsession Over Devices

If your child is constantly asking for screen time, or if they become agitated or restless without it, it could be a sign of screen addiction. Persistent negotiations for 'just a few more minutes' might indicate a deeper issue.


A child is scared after waking up from a nightmare

Sleep Problems

Screen time, especially before bedtime, can interfere with sleep. The blue light emitted by devices can disrupt the body’s natural sleep cycle. This makes it harder for children to fall asleep and leads to more frequent night terrors.


Concentration Difficulties

Excessive screen time can also lead to attention problems. Children who spend too much time in front of a screen can find it challenging to concentrate on tasks that require sustained mental effort.


Developmental Milestones

Fine motor skills, such as holding a pencil and using utensils, can be delayed in children who spend an excessive amount of time using touchscreens, as opposed to doing age-appropriate activities.


How to Set Boundaries Around Screen Time


Limiting screen time often feels like a bit of a challenge, especially when kids are used to having free rein over their gadgets.

Here’s how you can establish boundaries effectively:


Parent having a conversation with their children

Education and Open Dialogue

Explain the reasons behind screen time limits to your child in an age-appropriate way. Engage them in a dialogue about the importance of balance in their lives, and the potential consequences of overexposure to screens.


Create a Screen Time Schedule

Set specific times when your child is allowed to use screens, and stick to this schedule religiously. This not only imparts the importance of routine but also limits the total time that can be spent in front of a screen.


Consistent Enforcement and Rule Setting

Ensure that the rules you set for screen time are applied consistently. Children are more likely to comply if expectations are clear and enforced with predictability. Ensure there are consequences for breaking these rules, like having a bit less screen time for the next day.


Parent and children looking at a tablet together, smiling.

Choose Content Wisely

Check and approve all content your child has access to. It's important to ensure that the information and media they're consuming is age-appropriate and in alignment with your family's values.


Model Healthy Screen Use

Children learn by example, so be a model of healthy screen use. If you're asking them to limit screen time, it's essential that you're doing so as well. Whether it’s work or play, engage with your devices mindfully and in moderation.


Strategies to Reduce Screen Time (That Actually Work)


Setting limitations on screen time is one thing; persuading children to accept and respect them is another. Here are some practical strategies that address the issues head-on:


Don´t leave time for screens


This is a very simple and straightforward: Engage your kids in as many activities as possible so that they don´t have enough time for screens.


We know that´s easier set then done and that sometimes we run out of ideas. Well, here are


Parent and children riding their bikes together

Outdoor activities


  • go on nature walks

  • do yard work together (if you have a garden)

  • play in the aprk

  • go bike riding

  • paint outside with chalk

  • build and decorate a birdhouse together

  • plant a garden (it can be outdoors or a small one indoors)

  • go on a picnic

  • wash the car (and bikes) together


Father and children cooking

Indoor activities


  • cook together

  • have dance parties

  • do arts and crafts

  • give yourselves makeovers

  • do face painting

  • clean the house together

  • do science experiments

  • read together

  • go indoor camping




Children visiting an interactive museum

Other activities


  • sign your child up for activities like swimmings, gymnastics, music

  • visit kid museums

  • visit indoor play areas

  • go grocery shopping together


OK, I know what you’re thinking:

I can´t constantly entertain my kids. I have work and chores to do and sometimes I just need a break.

Don´t worry; I´ve got you!


Here are some additional strategies to balance screen time that don't need your involvement.


TV Time Alternatives

Redirect attention from the TV or tablet to alternative forms of entertainment. Use devices like the Tonie Box to listen to engaging stories and your kid´s favorite music. They can provide the same level of enjoyment without the reliance on screens.


Child playing with a dress up felt set

Independent Play

Encourage your child to enjoy independent play to cut down on screen time. Inspire creativity with activities like building blocks or drawing. Set up a play space with diverse toys that encourage exploration and self-directed learning. Gradually reduce your presence and let your child play freely to boost their confidence and problem-solving skills.


Screen Time Coins

Introduce the idea of "Screen Time Coins" as a fun way to manage screen time effectively! Allocate a specific number of coins (we made ours out of cardboard), each representing a set amount of screen time — for instance, one coin is 10 minutes. Try using a visual timer for younger kids who can't tell time yet! Kids can then spend these coins on screen time within set limits. This system encourages responsible usage and teaches valuable lessons about budgeting time and prioritizing activities.


The Best Apps and Shows for Screen Time


If you do allow screen time, the content your child consumes should be as enriching as possible. Here's a curated list of apps and shows that offer valuable learning experiences:


10 Best Shows for Sreen Time


Blue´s Clues

Blue´s Clues


Blue´s clues combines the best of live-action and animation. It´s an interactive and educational TV show that will turn children from passive viewers to active participators. Join Blue and Josh on a clue-led adventure and collect paw prints to solve a puzzle in each episode.



Little Princess Series

Little Princess


The series is based on the popular picture books by Tony Ross and follows the curious and lovable four-year-old little princess on her adventures in the castle. She loves dressing up, exploring and is not afraid to get dirty (although she’s not so keen on the bath afterwards). But she also learns that even if you are a princess you don't always get what you want.



Franklin TV series

Franklin


The series is about a bright, young turtle named Franklin, who explores the world with his friends and experiences new, exciting adventures every day. Each episode explores different topics such as friendship, love, and taking on responsibility. The show also explore how to deal with envy and how to resolve arguments with your friends.



Bitz and Bob series for children

Bitz and Bob


Ten-year-old Bitz is an inventor and engineer. Together with her little brother Bob, she builds the most fantastic things out of everything she finds. They love to explore their imagiantion and go on the most amazing adventures with their favourite toys.



Bluey

Bluey


This is one of the most beloved animated TV series for children and parents alike. It follows the daily adventures of a Blue Heeler dog named Bluey, her younger sister Bingo and their parents. Bluey and Bingo love to play and turn even the most simple game into an extraordinary family adventure.



Barbapapa family

Barbapapa


Enjoy the all new Barbapapa episodes and follow the adventures of this colorful and loving family. The TV series explores how to resolve conflicts, have empathy and overcome challenges. At the same time it also teaches kids about the importance of nature, recycling and sustainability.



The fixies

The Fixies


Follow the adventures of Tom Thomas and his friends the Fixies (small creatures that live in machines and can also repair them) as they introduce kids to science and physics in a fun and easy to understand way.



Daniel Tiger

Daniel Tiger


Daniel the Tiger is a four years old that has a great imagination. Together with his friends O the Owl, Katerina Kittycat, Miss Elaina and Prince Wednesday, he visits Teacher Harriet's kindergarten. The five live in the land of fantasy and there is lots to discover there. Especially if you are as curious as Daniel and always want to know everything in detail.



The Stinky and Dirty Show

The Stinky and Dirty Show


Join the adventures of two unusual heroes and best friends, Stinky the garbage truck and Dirty the excavator. This energetic and funny duo love to help out and solve problems, even if they often make mistakes.




My friend Conni

My friend Conni


There's always something going on at Conni's - whether it's baking pizza, playing football or celebrating a birthday. Join her as she learns new skills and faces everyday challenges.




10 Best Educational Apps


Screen Time Can Change Over Time


Finally, remember that how you handle screen time is not set in stone. Your approach should evolve as your child grows and their needs change. What works for a toddler will most probably not be suitable for a teenager. So stay flexible and adjust to new challenges allong the way.

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