Screen Time Limits for Families, Kids & Adults | Phone & Technology Addiction

family screen time, addicted to technology

Tally Up the Hours
For starters, it’s helpful to see exactly how much screen-time every member of your family is racking up each week (that includes you, too, Mom and Dad!). Remember, screen time includes time spent on phones, tablets, computers, e-readers, and tablets. Take stock with this printable screen-time chart. Also, check out this app that shows you how many times you check your phone each day — you might be surprised!

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents monitor and limit children’s screen time, and encourage them to consume high quality content (the AAP no longer specifies a set time limit on screen entertainment for kids). U.S. children are clearly in need of some limits: they log an average of eight hours of screen time per day. As The New York Times reports, screen addiction is taking a toll on kids’ physical and emotional health, contributing to everything from wrist and neck pain to eye strain and obesity, as well as social isolation, depression, difficulty in school, and increased exposure to violence. Once you see your family’s screen use on paper, and consider the impact on your child’s well being, you might feel more motivated to make some of the following simple changes.

mom child bike ride, tech-free after school

Enforce Screen-Free Time After School
Build an hour of screen-free playtime into your child’s after-school routine, which will encourage him to enjoy outdoor play after sitting in school all day. (Psst — did you know physical activity boosts kids’ brains?) Also, limit or prohibit tech time until after your child’s homework is complete by holding onto his device unless he needs it for his school work.

family screen-free dinnertime

Put Phones Away at Mealtime
Common Sense Media recommends designating “no-tech zones” in your home — such as the dining table — and respecting them! Eating together at least a few nights a week can help families stay connected — especially when there’s no technology at the table. So when it’s time to sit down for dinner, collect all your family devices and store them away from the table to foster good communication with your kids. When you’re eating at a restaurant, bring a bag or ask for a bread basket to stick all your family members’ phones in and push to the side until dinner is done!

parent child driving without texting

Go Phone-Free Behind the Wheel
The driver’s seat is another good place to designate a “phone-free zone” to help prevent talking and texting while driving. Motor vehicle crashes are the number one killer of people ages 15 to 20, claiming 6,000 lives per year, so explain to your teen the seriousness of distracted driving. Parents should also put their phone away while they’re at the wheel, for safety reasons and to encourage conversation with kids. If you do need to use your phone when you first step into the car, Common Sense Media advises narrating your phone use so that kids understand the utility of the device: “I’m looking up directions to the party.” Then pull over if you need to use it again.

dad reading bedtime story

Go Screen-Free Before and During Bedtime
Even if they don’t have a TV in their bedroom, U.S. kids are increasingly consuming movies and shows at bedtime on mobile devices and video game players with streaming capabilities, according to Common Sense Media. Mobile screens emit “blue light” that mimics daylight and contributes to insomnia, sleep experts say. A consistent, soothing bedtime routine with no screen time will lead to better sleep, according the National Sleep Foundation. So encourage all the members of your family to power-down an hour before bedtime. Stock up on some new bedtime stories to help break your kids of their late-night screen habits. Also, keep a “family charging station” in Mom and Dad’s room to encourage kids to surrender their devices overnight.

mother addicted to tablet or app

Break the Habit
What mom doesn’t love to pin on the weekends? We all have go-to games, apps, and websites that contribute to our screen addiction. Tackle your weaknesses head-on by deleting one of your most habit-forming apps for a week and seeing how much you miss it (or don’t). Silence your phone and turn off notifications from apps, such as Facebook, so you’re not tempted to check alerts during family time. Establish better work/life boundaries by setting a “blackout” time from 6 to 8 p.m. so you can focus on family time, and save phone use for after the kids have gone to bed. Look into apps that automatically regulate your phone use or even blacklist certain websites and apps.

family hiking phone-free

Have a Weekly “Sunny Day Rule”
Keep an eye on the weekend weather forecast, and designate the nicest day a screen-free day (or limited screen use day, with one hour of screen use per person). Check out our Weekend Planner for tons of family crafts and activities. Also, print our seasonal fun “to-do” lists and hang them on your fridge to find quick and easy screen-free ideas your family will love! On family outings and vacations, take along your regular camera so you can turn off your phone and enjoy the fun.

family sitting around tablet

Sign and Stick to a Family Media Pledge
Finally, put your new rules and goals in writing for the entire family to agree upon. The AAP encourages families to discuss appropriate media use and sign this family pledge with some basic rules for parents, kids, and teens. The pledge helps establish mutual respect around technology use, while also designating the parent as the authority around enforcing the rules and periodically checking your child’s device to ensure safe use.

Model good behavior by sticking with the rules you pledge to uphold as parents! Together, your family can cut back on screen time, make way for moderation and good manners, and enjoy making memories in “real time.”

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