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What the Screen Time Experts Do With Their Own Kids

Tips of regulating screen time for your kids.Doctors have a rough time dragging their children away from screens, too! They have a few tips on how to find balance. 

Dr. Jenny Radesky is the lead author of the most recent revision of the guidelines on media and children from the American Academy of Pediatrics. The mother of two young boys says her household is anything but tech-averse. They have a flatscreen TV, smartphones, and an array of other digital devices strung around their home.

How does this doctor with two young children keep them from spending large amounts of their days glued to these screens? It’s hard. As a doctor, she says she may be more prone to distraction than her husband is.

“My husband’s really good. His stuff (digital devices) is always just on the kitchen counter and he hardly checks it unless it rings. But if I’m on call, I have my pager on. If something is an emergency, that’s how I can be found.”

Research shows that many children learn how to regulate their own screen time by watching their parents.

Eric Rasmussen at Texas Tech believes that parents vastly underestimate their influence on their kids regarding screen time. “Parents are the biggest influence on kids in how they respond to media. Especially in the first 12 years. People are starting to realize that.”

Screen Time Ground Rules and Tips

Weekdays

In Dr. Radesky’s home, the kids have a “no media on weekdays” rule since they started school. At dinner and bedtime, they completely unplug from all devices. But, Radesky says that they all sit down for a family movie night on Fridays. She calls it “joint media engagement” in her research. By sharing screen time, you make it a family activity and can help your children interpret media.

Weekends

On the weekends, Dr. Radesky says she and her husband allow the kids cartoons, apps, and games like Minecraft. Beyond limiting their time on these digital devices, she says, “I try to help my older son be aware of the way he reacts to video games or how to interpret the information we find online.”

More Tips from Dr. Radesky

For Children Ages 18-24 Months

  • Avoid digital media use (except video-chatting) in children younger than 18 to 24 months.

  • For children ages 18 to 24 months of age, if you want to introduce digital media, choose high-quality programming and use media together with your child. Avoid solo media use in this age group.

  • Do not feel pressured to introduce technology early; interfaces are so intuitive that children will figure them out quickly once they start using them at home or in school.

Children Ages 2-5 Years Old

  • For children 2 to 5 years of age, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programming, co-view with your children, help children understand what they are seeing, and help them apply what they learn to the world around them.

  • Avoid fast-paced programs (young children do not understand them as well), apps with lots of distracting content, and any violent content.

Children of All Ages

  • Turn off televisions and other devices when not in use.

  • Avoid using media as the only way to calm your child. Although there are intermittent times (e.g. medical procedures, airplane flights) when media is useful as a soothing strategy, there is concern that using media as a strategy to calm could lead to problems with limit setting or the inability of children to develop their own emotion regulation. Ask your pediatrician for help if needed.

  • Monitor children’s media content and what apps are used or downloaded. Test apps before the child uses them, play together, and ask the child what he or she thinks about the app.

  • Keep bedrooms, mealtimes, and parent-child playtimes screen free for children and parents. Parents can set a “do not disturb” option on their phones during these times.

  • No screens 1 hour before bedtime, and remove devices from bedrooms before bed.

 

Learn more about screen time and kids here!

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