Five Tips for Managing Your Child’s Screen Time

It’s indisputable that the internet is a modern-day marvel of information, entertainment, economic empowerment, and global communication—for people of all ages! And at S&T, we’re proud that our advanced broadband network brings all of those benefits to our community and your family.

That said, it’s not surprising that many parents are concerned about the amount of time their kids spend in front of their screens. The hours can add up from texting with their friends to online gaming to watching TikTok videos or streaming their favorite TV show. And parents aren’t wrong to wish that more of that screen time instead be spent on homework, exercise, enjoying the fresh air—or even having more quality time with their families.

Thankfully, there are some things parents can do to manage and even limit their child’s screen time. Below we share five of our favorite tips developed by experts to help parents create a healthier balance for their kids and their devices. Read on to learn more!

Tip #1: Start With Yourself

One of the best ways parents can reduce their kids’ screen time is to demonstrate to their children that parents, too, can and do limit—or at least properly balance—their own screen time and device usage. This means making sure that you take breaks from the screen to go outside for a walk, do some household tasks between streaming shows or social media time, having uninterrupted conversations over a meal or a snack, or even picking up a book or magazine.

Experts say that it’s key to model this behavior both conspicuously (as in, make sure your kids actually see what you’re doing and that you’re regularly giving yourself a break from devices) and consistently. This tip alone goes a long way toward building credibility with your children on this issue while helping them learn to keep screen time in proper proportion and perspective in their everyday lives.

Tip #2 Create a Screen Time Schedule

One effective tool for controlling your child’s screen time is to set a schedule for when your child is permitted to use any of their devices. For example, you may decide that any time immediately after school ends is strictly for outdoor exercise, extracurricular activities, and homework time—up until dinner (where devices are also off-limits).

You can further limit screen time to one or two hours of streaming TV and social media or online videos—but not more. Critically, however, parents must enforce the schedule they implement. This may include establishing negative consequences (e.g., temporarily confiscating any devices) for violating the schedule.

Again, consistency is critical for this tip to be effective, but implementing a screen-time schedule instills daily patterns and order that help keep your kids’ priorities on track.

Tip #3 Set Up Screen-Free Zones

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) avoids using any device at the dinner table during meals.

Another option is to establish a screen-free zone in certain rooms in the house 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. (Family puzzle, anyone?)

Tip #4 Utilize Parental Controls

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—and long-time overuse can make it harder to break the habit.

With more stubborn instances of “device dependence,” some parents may take more direct measures to limit their child’s screen time by installing parental control apps on their kid’s devices.

One of the best parental control apps available is included in the S&T SmartWifi app, which, among many other things, lets parents set actual time allowances and limitations for using devices. This can take pressure off of parents to continually be the “screen time police” because the devices will automatically end the child’s screen time as decided in advance.

Tip #5 Consider Permitting an Occasional Binge Day

Our final tip is to recommend that you recognize your child’s compliance with the screen time balance and boundaries you’ve established by permitting an occasional day of binging. This can be a binge of their favorite movies (perhaps the Marvel Movie series over a bad weather weekend) or a TV series.

Alternatively, it could include an online gaming tournament your budding esports competitor is eager to take on. Of course, this tip is a “carrot” in a list laden with “sticks.” But experts feel it is vital to acknowledge that your kid is balancing screen time with other life activities well.

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 significantly 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 carrots and sticks, we bet you’ll find a better balance and encourage a healthier and more diverse lifestyle for your children.

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