Are your kids spending too much time glued to a screen? Do you try to limit screen time but feel like a hypocrite because… well… social media? I’ve been there. Quite frankly, I’m there on the regular. I long for the days before tablets and smartphones. When the only thing we could do was play outside, but those days are long gone. Well, kind of…

Here’s the deal.

We tend to look back on our past through rose-colored glasses, but our childhood wasn’t without its share of screen time. We had TV, video games, and depending on our age, computers. We’ve all heard our parents yell, “Shut that off and go outside!” Granted, screens are much more integrated into every facet of life now, but other choices are still readily available.

Playing outside. Reading a book. Spending time as a family. Those are all still available for our kids and for ourselves. We just have to establish some boundaries and choose them over the screens. Easier said than done, I get it, but it can be done. I’ll share some of the things we do to limit screen time for our kids. I’ll also share how I keep my own screen time in check and how I reset when I see it getting out of control.

If you have any great suggestions, please share them in a comment! Let’s work together to limit screen time and choose options that’ll be better for us and our relationships today!

How to limit screen time.

How do you limit screen time?

The short story is you just do it. For our kids’ tablets, we use Family LInk, and I use Stay Free for my phone.

Screen Limit App for Kids

Before using Family LInk we would have to remember when our kids got on their tablets and tell them when it was time to get off. That never ended well because they’d always be right in the middle of something. With Family LInk they know how much time they have each day, and when they start to get close to hitting the limit the app notifies them. When their time is up their time is up. No arguments. It’s been glorious.

Screen Limit App for Adults

When it comes to limits for my own phone I’ve found the Stay Free app has been good for me. It allows me to select which apps are most distracting, and I can either set individual limits or block out times for ALL distracting apps. I typically select the latter and block out all distracting apps from 4:30 pm until noon the next day.

Does that actually work? Yes, usually. Do I sometimes just cancel the block-out schedule because I have a problem? Also yes. Truthfully, I go in waves. When I notice my addiction kicking back in I turn the block-out schedule back on.

If you find yourself needing to set limits Stay Free is a great option, and if you need limits that you don’t have the option to change there’s an option to set up a pin. You can have your spouse create a pin that only they know. If you truly need to get into an app there’ll be a way, but if you just want more time to scroll on Facebook… having to ask your spouse for permission should be enough to figure out something more productive to do.

Limit Screen Time - Family Card Game

How to limit screen time without apps:

Maybe you can’t use an app because the problem isn’t with a tablet. It’s with the TV or video games. Here are some ideas.

Create requirements to unlock screen time

  1. Read for 20 minutes, get 20 minutes of screen time.
  2. Play outside for 30 minutes, get 30 minutes of screen time.
  3. Load the dishwasher, get 20 minutes of screen time.
  4. Clean the bathroom, get an entire day of screen time! lol just kidding. I just really hate cleaning bathrooms.

Our kids have a chore list they have to get done before getting on their tablets. We don’t have time rewards for each of their chores, but I think that would be a great place to start if you want to limit the screen time and up the responsibility. Pair them together and chores become more of a game.

Limit screen time by setting timers

Just insisting that your kids have been on their devices too long is kind of a recipe for disaster. Agree on how long they get to be on their tablet, game, or TV before it even gets turned on. Set a timer and notice if they respect the boundary. If they do, praise them for being trustworthy! If they don’t, take away all of their screen time for the following day.

Will they love that? Nope. But it won’t take very long before they realize respecting the limit is better for them in the long-run.

limit screen time - tea party

Don’t just limit screen time. Give them other options.

It’s part of the human experience. We don’t love just being told what we can’t do. We need to know what we can do. If your kids are young, come up with a list of things they can do that don’t include a screen.

  • Read
  • Color
  • Play outside
  • Play a board game

If you need some ideas check out this article by Tree Hugger or 1000 Hours Outside. Those are both GREAT options to get thinking about screen time alternatives.

You could come up with a list of things together and put them on little pieces of paper in a jar. Every day, when your kids are bored have them pick a paper and do what it says. If your child is a little more stubborn, have him or her put together their own list of things.

Another idea would be to create a list of shared activities like going to a park, to the movies, or to get ice cream. (Or things that are even more fun than those…) At the end of the week if they’ve respected the screen limits they can choose a reward! If you make things fun you’ll get much better results, especially at first.

Don’t expect perfection.

We’re not looking for perfection here. We’re just looking for better. Every once in a while our kids are going to have a meltdown because all they want is more time playing video games. Every once in a while we may give them more time, and that’s ok.

As I look at my own parenting I realize my screen time issues affect the way I parent. I either hold my kids to an expectation I don’t hold myself to. “I’m an adult and I can handle things they can’t.” That’s not as true as I’d like it to be… Or I feel shame from my hypocrisy, so I just let them do whatever. Neither one is a great option.

What’s the main point here?

We don’t have to be perfect, but we can do better.

Because there’s a better way,

Question: If this was helpful I’d really love to know! And if you have any of your own incredible suggestions for how to limit screen time please share those with the rest of us! ?

Check out the other blogs in this series here: 5 Simple Routines That Make Family Life SO Much Easier
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