Motherhood

What Are Your Screen Time Rules?

jo and Anton

Something nutty happened this month…

Anton got in big trouble on October 1st (long story), but his consequence was losing video games for the entire month. I knew he’d be bummed, since, during the pandemic, the boys have gotten an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. But I didn’t realize what would happen next.

Anton has always been a fun guy (see: cowboy boots, passive aggression), but during this month without video games, he became so present. He was my little pal — we took long walks, gave back rubs and watched movies, I taught him how to light candles, and we had deep conversations. As we strolled around the neighborhood, he asked me, “What happens after you die?” and we talked about different religions and tried to figure out what he believed.

The month’s relaxed pace makes me want to throw out all Anton’s video games! Alex and I are wondering how to extend the ban or cut down on screen time long-term. I hadn’t realized how much video games were affecting Anton’s temperament until now. (Interestingly, I don’t think movies or TV make Anton tweaky — just video games.)

Then again: Toby isn’t affected by playing video games, so it seems kid-specific. And some of the sweetest, most down-to-earth kids I know have zero limits on gaming. Plus, it’s a global pandemic so do what you need to do.

Thoughts? What are your screen time rules? Do you see differences in your kids when they have more or less? Do video games feel different from movies/TV? I’d LOVE to hear…

P.S. Six words to say to your child, and 18 surprising parenting tips.

  1. Caroly says...

    Just a funny comment. I had a friend who told everyone who would listen that her family did not own a television. Then one day her husband let it slip to me that the kid’s first word was “ipad”. lol! (We don’t speak English at home. youtube & Disney+ in our heritage language have been very helpful resources. PBS Kids is also great – I have learned so much from Molly of Denali and the Luna one)

  2. Jemma says...

    I’ve never been a big fan of screen time, especially at the dinner table. But COVID has changed this for us. We are all working from home and the little kiddo is remote learning so we are all in each other’s spaces all day and already know if Dad had an important meeting, or if the kiddo’s class had an eventful day. So we have taken to watching the Great British Baking Show at dinner time and it is DELIGHTFUL. We all chat about our favourite contestant, I pretend to know why the bake will fail (oh no, they over whipped their meringue!), and we get to spend time watching a bunch of extremely polite, super supportive, exceedingly nice people. And ooh and ahh over desserts we just have no skill or time to ever replicate. I don’t think we would have ever discovered this shared love of baking in the English countryside if it weren’t for these uncertain and stressful times. And it’s made me realise that sometimes, we don’t need to be so afraid of screen time.

  3. Anonymom says...

    My son had an EEG (visualized brain waves) with eyes open, eyes closed, and watching a scene on a screen. His brain went absolutely nuts with fast waves that occur during anxiety when watching the screen. The doctor said that was similar to what you see after someone narrowly averts a car crash. So we cut out screen time and he no longer seems as traumatized by the world. I thought it was COVID, but it was the screens I was letting him watch in response to COVID. (We do video chat with family, but only for short periods; I no longer pay my niece to video chat with him for an hour if I absolutely CANNOT be interrupted.)

  4. Martha Patterson says...

    I’m a middle school teacher, and interestingly enough, I’m just wrapping up a unit on the pros and cons of gaming. The students are pretty evenly divided, pro and con, and several have shared that it has heightened anger in themselves and others. I’ve had a few kids over the years who I’m convinced had digital addiction. One student in particular, when asked to name someone they admired or looked up to, said some video game character. Every writing assignment or conversation was about video games. As a parent I would certainly monitor young kids’ use especially, and pay attention to behavior changes and when they occur.

  5. Kristian Olson says...

    So- we have started to let our 3 year old play video games (mostly Yoshi’s Crafted World, as almost anything else is too hard). BUT- we play with him. I am not a gamer and never have been. When he and I started, we were honestly at about the same level of competency, but it was a game to play together. We could talk about turns and helping one another; we could also see what interested him and what scared him for reference in imaginative play and for picking library books (for example- an interest in astronauts emerged from this). When my husband plays with him, he is even more deliberate about taking and adding imagery and ideas from the games to imaginative play (sometimes in surprising ways. Though never seen in a game, our son informed us that Mario had a Cousin and he was coming to play with us). For me, what seemed to make the difference was doing it with him.

    Typically, our son gets to play up to three levels. He can decide how to divvy those up between Mom and Dad (or to choose not to use them!). There has been an occasional bad mood over having to put away the controllers, or over not “winning” a level, but those have been opportunities to work with him on how we handle disappointment or transitions. While we definitely don’t have parenting all worked out, I’ve really tried to shift melt downs to moments of “how can I make this a teacher moment for socio-emotional lesson here.” Sometimes that my having mindset is more successful than others but- it has helped to reframe it to be able to discuss with our son what the problems are and help come up with solutions.

  6. Andrea McLaren says...

    What a relevant topic to discuss — thanks Jo!
    I’m writing from Canada, mom to a 9-year old girl. I’ve read dozens of these comments over the last day or two and overall I find it sobering and a bit heartbreaking. I think it is REALLY important to acknowledge that we are among the first generations of parents raising kids who have never known the world without the internet!! Take a pause and let that sink in!
    I’m 38 so I remember life before computers and the internet. I can look back at see how online life has crept in to most facets of our lives. It was pretty quick! I echo both poles of this convo: Yes, we have to find a way to be gentle with ourselves as we steer the next generation. Also, there will be consequences of depending heavily on devices and the internet/tv to quell/distract/engage our kids while we work, want an uninterrupted cup of coffee, etc.
    It is naive to think that these choices we make as parents won’t affect the kids for the rest of their lives. But that doesn’t mean we have to bury ourselves in guilt. We have to do our best with the cards we are dealt.
    In my experience parenting so far, a bit of TV for a toddler turns into more later on. Screens often become competition with school work or reading / other analog activities. And FaceTime with friends was novel at first but got rough quick because these kids are not adapted / evolved to depend on that as their primarily tool for connecting.
    All that to say, in the midst of a pandemic world we recently put the ipad away, limited our phone use, watch tv a bit as a family. It feels very 1980’s haha. It feels so good. No more convos about screen time at all.
    A lot more reading, helping out, awareness of her surroundings, a general sense of calm, just connecting more. Picking up instruments. Laying on the floor with the cat musing about the day. So soon she will be a teen, and then an adult and time spent on screens will be less of an option. I just want to preserve her analog experience as long as I can, maybe.
    Very long winded ramble, but if you read this far I’m sending you a lot of love and courage. Raising children right now is such a big responsibility.
    You’re doing great. All of you.

    • Vanessa says...

      Love this! Totes agree :)
      From California

    • Agnès says...

      Thanks Andrea, your comment was just really nice to read and I know I need to get a cat. Lots of love, from Paris.

  7. Susan says...

    I love how thoughtful the conversation, and how much we all care for our kids. And of course, each parent knows their kids best and what they need. But I get the feeling that the anti-screen time, pride if your kids have zero screen time, and guilt if you let your kids watch tv/play vid games (so you can work, clean, cook, take a break, or even if they just want to), has a bit of a moral panic to it. It’s part of the unending drive to make moms especially feel bad if they are not sacrificing everything for their kids/doing the most difficult thing possible.

    I reject the talk that screens are “addictive” or kids are “addicted” if they like tv/video games. It’s pathologizing something that doesn’t need to be. I mean, you know that intense desire and absorption you have when you’re reading a great book? You don’t want to put it down, you look forward to reading at the end of the day…sometimes even – ahem – during the day. Do you say that you’re addicted to the book? Do you say that the book is keeping you from developing your own imagination? Why just get enveloped in someone’s else world, imaginary or real, when you should be creating your own/writing your own stories/learning to knit/garden/bee keep. :)

    To the moms that are letting their kids watch hours of tv so they can work – you’re doing just fine. No guilt needed. Yes, they could be doing other things, but they’re also learning how stories are put together/new words/cultural references. They may also be amassing social capital. You know how we talk to /connect with strangers and friends over shows/movies we love? See a e.g. a whole bunch of entries on this very blog about that. Well, kids do that too! They’re also getting an understanding that your job is important and that mom loves them but has other responsibilities. That’s a valuable lesson too.

    To the moms that are not letting their kids engage with screens – you’re doing just fine too. They are reading/playing/being bored, and learning valuable lessons from that.

    Basically, I want moms to understand that there are so many different ways of being a good parent. And absent abuse and actual neglect, you’re doing great no matter what you choose. There’s an upside and downside to everything. Just roll with it.

    • Andrea says...

      Here for this comment, Susan! Thanks!

    • Ariel says...

      Susan, thank you so much for this comment. It articulates so perfectly what I believe deep down but rarely let myself recognize underneath layers and layers of guilt and comparison and perfectionism. I have been reading the comments on this post for the past two days waiting for someone to post some balancing words like yours. I also had to remind myself that folks posting about zero screen time are self-selecting… I’m sure there are plenty more of us without those strict rules who feel too much shame to admit it.

    • Mary says...

      Best comment on the thread. Empathy and non-judgment are the goals. Thank you, Susan!

    • Cate says...

      Agree that this comment (and I have read them all!) is the one that spoke most clearly to me. This issue really stresses me out and my kid isn’t even two yet. I completely agree with the moral panic and pathologizing things that don’t need to be. Personally I am trying to examine my own feelings about screens and why I feel so much anxiety about this issue, and hopefully then I will be able to go forth and make decisions for my family that are good for all of us. I just don’t want to stress out about this for the next 16 years.

    • Heather says...

      Thank you for this comment. We all know our kids would be better off without screen time but I am struggling here. It is depressing. It is hard to feel like I am succeeding in any area of my life right now and even though the tone of this article is not at all judgmental, I still feel guilty. Another reminder of how I could be doing a better job as a mom. I mean at this point that screen isn’t just letting me work, it’s maybe giving me the only solitary moments of my day. I think my kids seeing me relax some standards in the interest of mental health and survival is not a bad thing. They’ll be ok.

    • Carrie says...

      So well said! Thank you!

    • Ariel said: “ I also had to remind myself that folks posting about zero screen time are self-selecting.” I want to beef that up a little, many of us little- or no-screen time people are also privileged to be able to do that. My own family has very little screen time, but we are also a two parent family who just happened to BOTH be on sabbatical for 2020. On top of that, our kids school and daycare are running in person. So it would be easy to wax poetic about our screen time limits, but they are simply due to our circumstance.

    • Whitney says...

      Susan – I completely agree that no one should feel like bad mom. No one should be shaming someone for the way they are trying to get by. No one should be consumed with guilt or panic. And no one should be tooting their own horns about their perfect lives.

      However, we as a society need to be educated on screen time. Your comment says you reject the talk that screens are “addictive”. Have you researched this topic and truly learned about it so that you are in an informed position to make that rejection?

      I think so many people just go by what has been normalized – what everyone else is doing. Getting sucked into Youtube rabbit holes and spending hours a day on highly reinforcing and fast moving video games is not the same as watching cartoons on TV like we did as kids. There is published science about what these kinds of programs are doing to people’s brains but it is not widely publicized. The artificial intelligence used to create the programs is specifically designed to be addictive. This AI is developed by incredibly smart people with limitless budgets. Their job is to keep eyeballs on screens and they have done it well. I urge you to please dig a little deeper to learn. (I hope that I am not sounding condescending. It is difficult to convey this via internet comment rather than having an actual personal conversation! This is a touchy subject but we have to overcome our discomfort and get to talking about it!)

      It is not ANY mom’s fault if their family is struggling with screen addiction. But we have to stand up to this technology and figure out how to deal with it responsibly.

    • Susan says...

      I don’t come by my rejection of the “addictive” language around screens blithely. There’s a lot of resources on the web, if anyone is interested. For example: https://www.apa.org/monitor/2020/04/cover-kids-screens. If you’re interested in drilling down, you can look up many of the actual studies here: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/. But the problem with the studies is that they are all correlational, not causal. Here’s a good explanation of that: https://www.dana.org/article/the-truth-about-research-on-screen-time/. It’s probably unethical to do causal studies anyway.

      I’m a researcher by nature, a lawyer by profession, and a mom of two little kids. I’m also someone who grew up in poverty and am now in a different socio-economic stratum. So the little bit of daylight I see in between parents who let their kids do some screen time and parents who prohibit it isn’t all that much.

      This is all assuming that all the kids of these parents are also getting their other needs met – for food, and shelter, love, and exercise which I think is all true with this wonderful community of moms on this blog. And yes, I’m mostly talking about neurotypical kids, not those with sensory issues or are on the spectrum. And if you see your kids having a problem, then yes, respond to it. You know your kids best. Sometimes I feel like an alien dropped into the world of a middle class parenting, and it’s fascinating to me what middle class and higher parents worry about (which now includes me!). :)

      When I read: “There is published science about what these kinds of programs are doing to people’s brains but it is not widely publicized. The artificial intelligence used to create the programs is specifically designed to be addictive,” I can see an already anxious mom reading that as shaming. But what are these studies? How were they conducted? What specific media were the kids subjected to and how long was the follow up? Was the conclusion correlational or causal?

      Gosh, I can feel the anxiety of the moms who are so worried about this issue, and feeling guilt over letting their kids watch some tv/play vid games/interact with a device. You don’t need to. You’re doing fine. There are upsides to it as well. See my earlier comment.

    • Colette says...

      I love you.

    • Agnès says...

      I find your comment very empathetic to all parents, and that’s quite amazing. I still think being a good parent has nothing to do with screens, but has to do with having a plan about parenting. It doesn’t change the fact that screen time has little to do with reading time: when you read, all your imagination is on fire, you are active. Being passionate about an activity is not the same -obviously- as being addicted. Addiction to screens makes children feel grumpy, overexcited, angry. Why would so many parents complain about screens? There are so many other ways, cheaper and easier than using screens so we can work. Personally I couldn’t afford a smartphone or a tablet if I wanted to; I just have a computer (where my son can watch cartoons), but I am so relieved I have no choice to make.

  8. Jenny says...

    Both of my daughters (6.5 years apart in age) had what I call “attitude issues” after playing video games for too long. And not TV or movies. I agree there is something specific for some kids with the video games. We limit access to the weekends only and then try to move on to a different activity after about an hour. Makes for a much smoother school and work week for all of us.

  9. Diane says...

    my 1.9 year old doesnt watch any TV – not sure if its viewed as normal or unusual elsewhere but we’re in Israel and most kids/babies get TV access very early on. We aren’t decided when we’ll allow her to watch TV but she does see my mum who is abroad on video calls a few times a week. I’m looking forward to having movie nights with her when she’s older and introducing her to some of the classics.

    Another topic for another time, but does anyone else have issues or concerns with some of the traditional childrens films from the 80s-90s and how they relate to the modern world? Im thinking specifically about all the Disney films where the primary objective is to find a husband despite what they have to sacrifice in the meantime – looking at you, Beauty & the beast, little mermaid etc.

    • Stephanie says...

      I think it’s important to point out that Belle’s primary objective was NOT to find a husband – she eschewed Gaston’s multiple (forceful, predatory, even!) attempts at a relationship, and was often witty about it. She had a creative mind, loved reading, and was encouraged to be independent and resourceful by her inventor father. The townspeople thought she was odd, and she didn’t care. The only reason she went to the castle (alone, in the dark) was to rescue Maurice. She took her father’s place to save him without any thought for herself – a sacrifice for someone she loved, not romantically.
      What develops afterwards in the story is typical of Disney cannon, yes, but being so self aware and independent, Belle could’ve stayed away if that’s what she really wanted.
      (no comment on The Little Mermaid…)

    • Mel says...

      I don’t know about the Beauty and the Beast response comment. She fell in love with her captor who tried to intimidate her with rage. It’s a bit of a Stockholm syndrome thing going on. But here’s the kicker, I’ve watched and enjoyed most of the Disney princess films so I can totally see the conundrum of trying to balance out which films to let your child watch due to message. It’s not always easy and I don’t think there is a right or wrong choice. Discussion afterwards about any movie could be helpful about the good and bad themes as the world is filled with both. Very evocative question Diane!

  10. Meg says...

    No screen time. OK, that’s not totally true – now my kids watch a movie every Friday night (sometimes it ends up being Saturday . . . or Sunday instead, but just once a week). My older son is on a screen until noon every day for class (all classes are online) but pre-pandemic it was a movie, or show (like the Great British Baking Show) once a week (and some weeks we’d all totally forget). My kids are 11 and 5. I didn’t let my oldest watch anything at all, no movies, no TV, no screens, nothing, until he was 5. And the first time we went to see a movie (at Lincoln Square) he ran into the lobby scared out of his mind and wouldn’t return. I notice a total change in behavior if they watch TV so I’m happy with how infrequent it is (although I finally discovered how much more work I can get done when they’re watching a movie and with the pandemic it’s nice to have some time alone!).

  11. Katherine says...

    We’ve been all over the place with our now five year old and screen time. During Quarantine we were determined to keep boundaries with our screen time, and discovered…
    PODCASTS.
    Specifically Wow in the World- the NPR science podcast for kids.
    It’s amazing! We all enjoy it, kiddo happily plays while it’s on, and (bonus!) learns a ton.
    We’ve tried some others, but keep coming back to this one. I’d love to hear recommendations if anyone has them!

    • Kelly says...

      My family always did audiobooks. That’s how we did Lord of the Rings, Hitchhiker’s Guide, etc.

      I was kind of a gruesome kid and loved weird history and medical facts, and I think the Sawbones podcast (certain episodes anyway) would be good fun, depending on the age of your kiddo. Old-timey medical stuff and history, but it’s quite funny. 10 year old me would’ve loved it. Or if they’re into anything spooky, Fireside Mystery Theatre is very good, kind of like old-timey radio plays. And for the adults, you can listen to Cabin Pressure (a funny BBC radio show with Benedict Cumberbatch) in the podcast app as “Cumberbin’s Treasure.” It’s my comfort listen.

    • Maggie says...

      Grimm, Grimmer, Grimmest is by far my daughter’s fave. I think Season 1 is free on Apple, but then they get you hooked and you have to go to Pinna for the next season.

    • Jessica says...

      My kiddos (6 and 4) love Circle Round Podcast. Amazing stories from around the world with great life lessons, good voices (usually professional actors). Love them!

    • Lucy says...

      Yes! My 3.5 year old loves the Molly of Denali podcast!!! It tells the story of 2 parents (mom is a bush pilot, dad is a wilderness guide) and their daughter Molly who take over running a general store. They are Native and the series teaches so much about life in Alaska, lessons about kindness/friendship/etc., and an appreciation for the beauty and diversity of Native tribes and cultures and languages.

  12. SarahN says...

    I assist with my partner’s two kids, and they have evolving screen time limits, and its related to what’s being done on the screen. So they ask for ‘iPad’ but the approval can be for one of: videos (where YouTube is different to Netflix etc), games (educational or fun). And there’s movie nights on the TV. It’s fascinating that they know to ask what type of screen time, and what they are allowed varies! Fascinating (I’ve only been with him since March…)

  13. mado says...

    In a world where so many parenting questions are posed as “you must do this or you are a Bad Parent”, I love love love the open ended respectful way cup of jo presents issues like this.

  14. Jen says...

    My four year old watches 5 hours a day since Covid had us both working from home. It’s horrible but that’s how we’re surviving

    • Whitney Olson says...

      We have a tv, but didn’t watch much as our girls were born and toddlers. When they would asked we would kindly say no and give them ideas for alternatives. Now (ages 8,6,4,1) we have a lifestyle of playing inside, outside, reading, cooking together that when they do ask I can happily say sure! Why not! Because it isn’t an everyday request AND it is always a family affair. All the girls, or us parents included, watch a family movie(chatting throughout and eating a snack) or play a family video game and cheer one another on. It is still a fairly active and engaging activity. It’s just one of many activities that isn’t a big part of our lives.

      This sounds totally I’M AWESOME, but this is just one thing I feel like my husband and I have figured out (for us) and I’m proud of it.

    • Emma says...

      You are doing a great job. It’s an impossible situation.

    • Carrie says...

      No, it’s not horrible. It’s okay. You’re doing your best for right now.

  15. Sarah says...

    I have a 7 year old who would like to play Roblox continuously (while FaceTiming a friend playing the same Roblox game while also watching a YouTuber play Roblox). But his behaviour is hugely affected if he spends longer than an hour playing. Not just when he has to stop playing but in every part of the day.
    Tv…he is no longer really interested, especially movies, preferring to watch YouTube. I’d read that if you ask anyone under 8 what their favourite tv show is they will respond with their favourite youtuber. He did just that when I asked him. But his behaviour is also affected a lot if he watches a lot of YouTube. Also he would want to watch it for hours if we let him. But if for example he has a YouTube ban and is watching some tv instead he will choose to switch it off after a couple of episodes and play with his brother. All the time we had at home in lockdown let this all play out much more obviously and so now we have much shorter times on games, YouTube and to a lesser extent tv. I felt so so bad when I realised how different, how much happier and able to regulate his emotions he was with short screen times.

    • Dana says...

      Oh! That description of the Roblox-YouTube-Friend combo must be almost an organic creation for kids this age, because my just-turned-8yo does the EXACT SAME (also with Minecraft). Trouble is, he’s an only child. So if he’s not playing with friends online…during this pandemic it’s been….us. And that gets to be a lot.

      We actually don’t mind when he’s playing with friends. That’s the closest they can get to playing normally these days & doesn’t seem to affect him quite the same way. He’s got unlimited restrictions on that. (Especially playing with his best friend, whose mom died 2 weeks ago-I think it’s been really good for both of them to have that escape and normalcy.)

      But playing/watching YouTube by himself? That turns him into basically another kid. He behaves like an actual addict. It’s rough. We’re trying to find some solutions for when it gets colder & we’re really stuck….

    • Dee says...

      Oh my goodness, this is totally me with my 8yo. He had been asking for Roblox and Online Mincraft (he can play Minecraft but offline)since last year; and we finally gave in this July. It is my biggest regret of 2020! I wish I held out long as I have been telling him he can only do so when he is 12! But this pandemic… sigh. Now Im thinking of ways to dial it back.

  16. illana says...

    When my kids were little and starting to get very interested in screens and devices, I made it clear that anytime they asked, if the answer was yes it was *only max 20 minutes and not every day (and the kids are responsible for the timer), and *screens get closed when someone is talking to you. I explained, even to my 5-yr-old daughter at the time, that the main danger of a game or the internet is that it can easily teach someone to get lost in it without recognizing things like how much time has passed, what is going on around them, if they actually want to choose what they are currently viewing. So Every. Single. Time. I required those points be followed. What I wanted was for *them* to learn the awareness. I think it has taken years but it’s in there. My kids are now 11 and 15, and 3 years ago their father and I divorced. So here’s what I do know: when the 3 of us are together in our house, they often forget about video games and texting entirely. Movies I feel differently about! I think we watched 4 Harry Potter movies in one weekend, loved every second, and then talked about them over every meal!

    • Leigh says...

      This technique resonates with me. My boy is five and a half, and naturally obsessed with YouTube, XBox, mobile phone games, then Netflix. He’d spend all day on them if I let him. But, I’ve always said basically, yes you can play/ watch YouTube IF you adhere to these rules (and he does listen and follow through happily!)
      – you get an hour on the device/game then it gets switched off
      – i give him a countdown to let him know time is nearly up (10 minutes to go! Five minutes! Get ready to close down, you’ve got one minute left!)
      – NO gaming, videos or devices before school, only after, and then only after he’s done his homework (this usually causes a tantrum though!)
      – he can play/ watch or use a device if I’m busy and have to prioritise that task over being with him (I’m a single mum so this is important!), but when I’m done then the device goes down.
      Good luck everyone!!!

  17. Saphrin says...

    For us, the biggest challenge has been Youtube! My kids (5 & 7) entered a black hole of watching toy unboxing & fantastical vacation vlogs occasionally stumbling on videos that weren’t age appropriate. The ensuing fussing, jealousy & consumerism was too much for us but at first we didn’t know what to do except cut it out completely. Then my husband had a brilliant idea, family youtube night! So on Friday nights we order a pizza, eat popcorn or ice cream and the four of us take turns picking YouTube videos. The videos we choose range from travel videos, to trick shots with the occasional toy unboxing least we forget where we started. Having one specific time a week where we watch together as a family is a game changer! Any time our kids ask for YouTube, we ask “is it Friday?” If it’s not, the answer is no! It’s allowed us to learn as a family, have discussions and been a great jumping off point for family time!

    • Alex says...

      Ooh saving this tip for later! Great idea!

  18. Janie Goodwin says...

    We earn screen time from reading. Every minute earned reading is a minute earned playing games. It’s esp great while traveling because they can alternate, read play read!

    • Jax says...

      That’s a fantastic idea!

    • Mollie says...

      As a teacher, I would say if this works for you, great! In general, I would not recommend others to adopt this if they aren’t currently doing it simply because when we offer a reward for something, it makes that thing seems less desirable. Hopefully kids WANT to read and don’t think of it as a chore they need to be rewarded for doing. But carry on if your kids are happy!

  19. Alison Busch says...

    We are going through a similar time at our house right now! We have always let our kids watch about 1-2 hours of TV a day but our almost 5 year old daughter all of a sudden became very obsessed with it-asking constantly to watch it, and throwing big tantrums when It was time to turn it off. We decided about two weeks ago that we were all done with TV and the first few days were terrible but then she magically stopped asking about it! She and her younger brother have started playing together more and have become much better at entertaining themselves. We let our daughter be in control of our echo dot during quiet time, where she can ask it to play stories, music and kids podcasts. We feel ok about that because it’s not a screen that she is staring at. I’m really not opposed to screen time (and love family movie night) but I’m afraid to re introduce it and bring back the tantrums! I will be reading to see if anyone has any good recommendations!

  20. AG says...

    I would like to share that it’s by watching TV that I:
    – got to learn a second language
    – bonded with strangers because of pop culture and sitcoms
    – learned about other countries/cultures outside my own
    – was exposed to different types of humor

    So for the zero TV crowd out there – WOW!

    • Emma says...

      100% – child of the 80s here with lots of latchkey kid friends who watched a ton of TV and are bright, creative and interesting adults.

    • Love this point! I think there is nothing inherently evil in tv or movies. Even video games can have a lot of value — there is some AMAZING storytelling being done via games these days, and a lot of it is really inclusive, thoughtful, and counter-cultural in a way kids’ TV or movies often fail to be. Plus, lots of cooperative and educational games that are really great for kids working together. My husband plays video games, so I imagine our son will too when he’s older. It’s all in how you let it be part of your lives and how mindful you teach your kids to be!

    • Christa says...

      I understand your point—however I think it’s a flawed argument. Just because you happened to gain some benefit from your screen time does not make the screen time itself a positive thing. For instance, the fact that I was the oldest of five and my parents encouraged me to mediate their arguments as a child has made me diplomatic, and I was very independent from a young age. These are positive things, but I would never encourage parents to parentify their children or allow them to mediate their arguments to try to encourage diplomacy and independence. I think the the negatives here far out weigh the benefits and in young children there is quite a bit of research to back this up. I do agree there can be some benefit for children who are developmentally ready which I think would ideally be around 9 or 10. Children cannot discern reality from fiction until they are about 6 and cannot discern the difference between ads and cartoons until they are around 8 or 9. I also think ad free screen time/slower paced screen time is different from handing a baby an iPhone and an app.

  21. Molly says...

    I’ve thought a lot about this over the years. My son is now 10 and my daughter is 8. We started my son playing online games relatively early (second grade?) because his cousins who we visited in Sweden played and it seemed like it would be a good way to have them connect. I stressed over the decision, but ultimately concluded that society has chosen to have video games in the world. I cannot take on all of society with my choices (because my preference would be no video games…additionally, as a white women of privilege, I would like to live in a glamorized version of the 1950s), so why stress so much? Not to mention, all the articles I read and speakers I listened to seemed to use fear as a reason not to do screen-time. I try not to run my life based on fear, so the kids each get an hour every day of video game time.

  22. Roxanne says...

    Right now, my kids (6 and 10) have unlimited screen time. To be clear, they aren’t on them all day every day, but we have no set time limits.
    If I thought pandemic time is stressful now (WHICH I DO, mental health whaaa) I can’t imagine if we didn’t have the iPad for the kids.
    Often I find myself suggesting screen time (WHY DON’T YOU GUYS PLAY ROBLOX TOGETHER SO I CAN ACTUALLY TALK IN THIS MEETING/CLEAN THE KITCHEN/TAKE A SHOWER/BREATHE). My kids would always prefer to play with me/my partner, but I don’t know how else to get a break right now.
    I’m basically a terrible mother and probably just rationalizing this, but I also sometimes feel like screen panic has a “get off my lawn!” component. This is not the world we grew up in, screens are here to stay. I wonder if someday screen policing will seem just so quaint like Victorian things seem to us. My kids already can’t believe that in my lifetime a phone wasn’t also a computer and that in the car you had to listen to whatever the radio was playing!

    • Sam says...

      You are NOT a terrible mother! When I’m showering and making dinner, that has become screen time for my kiddo most days. You gotta do what you gotta do! :)

    • Emma says...

      I totally agree with this – both in the do what you have to do to survive in this moment thing and that this is is a rapidly changing world of tech in which I can’t even imagine what my children’s children will be interacting with! I also played plenty of Atari growing up! But the key thing when my kids are playing online games with friends from school they are essentially having a playdate while chatting, laughing, strategising and cooperating. They are building strong relationships with their cousins, independent of me and my husband, and learning new skills like building Minecraft worlds etc. All our gaming was totally locked down (no online games) before lockdown but I actually think the change were forced into has some huge upsides.

    • Caitlin says...

      You sound like a really good mom. Also I think you are right about the fact that this topic is rooted in a lot of fear and panic for people, myself included I’m afraid. But naming and acknowledging that is helpful I think.

    • Neena says...

      You are NOT a terrible mother. You are working from home during a pandemic while also being a full-time parent. If TV-babysit helps you keep your job and also be present during ‘parenting-time’ I don’t see anything wrong with screen time. You are a person, you not only deserve breaks but also need the breaks to be a good parent.

    • Amy says...

      Totally not a bad parent. My husband was away for work a lot while my three kids were young, and we ended up with a routine of a morning show (oldest child’s pick), afternoon show after daily quiet time and now school (middle child’s pick), and an evening show while I made dinner (youngest child’s pick).

      He’s in a different job and home almost every night now, but this routine has stuck and I honestly notice an improvement in behaviour afterwards. It’s scheduled so there’s no begging through the day to watch a show; they know it’s coming and when it will be. They watch them as a threesome, so they have shared references in conversation and imaginative play. If they’re squabbling, they’re generally “reset” after some quiet time sitting together on the couch watching their show, without engaging directly with each other and increasing the agitation.

      I know some kids genuinely act out or turn into zombies after certain types of screentime; this doesn’t seem to be the case for my kids so we kept the habit but we would’ve adjusted accordingly to iPad time or something else instead. I’m an introvert, and me being stressed out and frazzled with no breaks during those years wouldn’t have been any better for them!

    • Amy says...

      PS I should add that while scheduled TV works really well for our family, last year while I was working from home and had a preschooler home with me 3 days per week, there was definitely more TV during the day (phone meetings, just getting things done). She’s at school now too (in-person, we’re in British Columbia, Canada) which gives me waaay more flexibility work-wise. If they were home during the day, there’d be a lot more TV I bet!!

  23. Meaghan says...

    I can definitely relate to this!

    I have a four year old son who, frankly, becomes a total jerk when we allow him to watch movies or shows – he definitely “tweaks out”, as you put it! Prior to COVID, we always kept our tv covered and out of sight and he never got into a routine of watching it. Then, with everything shutdown, we starting instituting family movie nights… and quickly came to regret it. He would be transfixed for the duration of the movie (allowing us much-needed rest time after 24/7 lockdown with him/trying to work) but then throw a total tantrum once it ended. Getting him to bed was a nightmare and even the next day we would notice he was often not himself. I can’t explain it, all I know is that after 4-5 times trying this, we firmly decided we couldn’t rely on this anymore and since then, he hasn’t watched a movie. It’s a bummer, especially now that it’s getting colder and the idea of cozying up to a family movie sounds so enticing, but then I remember how difficult he is afterwards and I just immediately veto the idea. I completely swear by little to no screen time in our house. He definitely does not play any video games either, I can’t even imagine what those would do to him!

    BUT! I have a suggestion because yes, we definitely needed a way for him to spend quiet time by himself and while he’s great about “reading” his books, I can sympathize with him not always wanting to sit in a quiet room staring at pictures. I needed a special “treat” for him that wouldn’t make him bonkers. We have been listening to a lot of audiobooks and recently I discovered this little radio called the “Yoto” and I love it! It’s designed for kids to use and it plays audio books – it’s amazing. He can pick the book he wants to listen to, adjust the chapters and volume, and it’s completely 100% his to control. I’ll let him listen to this after school when he’s too tired and crabby to do much else and it also buys us time on weekend mornings when my husband and I want some extra moments to linger over breakfast. It has been the perfect solution for a four year old who is relatively independent but really can only do so much by himself. Highly recommend if you want to limit screen time but need something to fill the void!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      this is amazing!! we recently let Anton listen to an old iPod and it had the same calming effect. thank you for this, Meaghan!

    • Kelly says...

      I noticed they have a record your own feature! Have you tried that yet?

    • Stephanie says...

      Yes to audiobooks! They’re such a lifesaver. My kids play well–both alone and together–but sometimes (especially in these Covid times) they struggle to get along or to focus well. Audiobooks always do the trick! They’ll play happily for an hour or two while listening to a good book. Then my husband and I can get some work done and not feel guilty about them sitting in front of the TV or spend our time breaking up fights.

      A few favorites (our boys our 7 and 4, for reference): Nate the Great, Narwhal and Jelly, Mercy Watson, Magic Treehouse, Bear Grylls Adventures, The Trumpet Swan, Sideways Stories from Wayside School and–just in time for Halloween–Bunnicula. I’d love to hear readers other favorite audiobooks for kids. :)

  24. J says...

    A different perspective on screen time…my 3yo has always been one of those painfully early risers and we’ve been known to throw on a Disney favorite on a Saturday morning (or any morning if up at/before 5…) while one parent keeps sleeping and the other does minimal parenting on the couch. But lately 3 has insisted she doesn’t want to watch anything on these mornings and instead wants to do costumes & pretend play with heavy parental involvement. So great and so cute, but not at that hour! So right now we would actually vote for more screen time over here if we could!!! :P

  25. Jess says...

    This picture! His little pajamas! So sweet, Joanna. I am inspired by how in tune you are with your boys. Thank you for sharing them with us.

  26. TK says...

    A few years ago, we decided to cut out screen time for our kids completely (now 6 and 8) and it was definitely the right decision for us. When they did watch a show before dinner everyday it became a constant battle of “just one more!” and were always so grumpy when we turned it off that it didn’t seem worth it anymore. I thought it would be hard transition to go from everyday to nothing but after two days they stopped asking and have no problems entertaining themselves for the most part. The kids can pretty much go outside whenever they please so that helps a lot, I’m sure. We do watch the occasional family movie and FaceTime with family plus all the computer work they do at school, so they are not completely without.

  27. Mel says...

    Our boys are 5, 10, and 12. We’ve managed to stay away from gaming consoles thus far, but the tide may be changing for us. Our boys play dumb, free games on their chromebooks and ipad – usually about an hour per day. Now that they’re playing on their own devices, I realize that playing together on a console would actually be more social. I’m a pediatrician, and I see lots of kids (especially boys) who get addicted to video games. But I also see as a parent that 12 year old boys socialize by playing video games. I don’t love it, but the end result for my son is that he is left out. Especially for boys who aren’t talented in terms of ball-sports, it’s hard to find things to do with friends. We’re realizing we may take the leap to video games this Christmas.

    • Alex says...

      Makes total sense! A parent I admire purchased the console, but their family only rented games. That way the console was mainly used when the kids invited friends over (social!) or on the weekend (after homework/other commitments were taken care of). Just throwing it out there.

    • M.B. says...

      Just want to comment that I have 10 & 12 year old boys, & last year we made the leap to a Nintendo Switch. They got 1 for Christmas to share. They get 1 hour of screen time (video games or Youtube) during the week & 3 hours on the weekends. No rollovers. Use it or lose it. I was so freaked out about the video game addiction but my 12 year old isn’t a sporty kid, isn’t very social & really doesn’t have any other way to connect with boys his age. Having some common language of popular video games helps him to at least relate to his peers. I still won’t allow Fortnite though. :)

    • Mel says...

      M.B. — you sound like my doppleganger. I’m also an MB, and our screen time limits are similar. I like the idea of only letting our boys play video games if they are playing together or with friends. I could have said exactly the same about our 12yo — not sporty, not very savvy socially, and he feels left out when all the other kids play video games together. We won’t let him have a phone yet, so he’s already a bit more isolated than some of his peers. I also won’t allow fortnite yet:)

  28. Kate says...

    I don’t know who needs to hear this, but all you parents are doing a great job! I am not a parent myself, but reading through the comments I am struck by how much pressure parents are putting on themselves regarding screen time rules. Everyone here is clearly trying their best and figuring out what is right for their family and I think that any kid would be lucky to have such caring parents!

    Also, to be honest, these are wild times. If the biggest issue is your kid getting cranky after too much video games, I’d say you’ve got a well adjusted child doing a great job in a time of such unpredictability!

    • Alex Pearl says...

      Well I needed to hear this. I may copy this on a post it and put it by my bed.

    • Tamara says...

      THANK YOU!
      I am copying it too!

    • Myka says...

      I needed to hear this too! thank you from a working from home mama, that let’s her 4 year old watch wayyyy too much tv. I’m going to keep reading this to myself every damn day. thanks again!

  29. Mairsy Doates says...

    This is a never-ending quandary for me. We have 9 and 6 year old boys who are active and lots of fun. But, I find they turn into jerks after too much screen time, especially my older son. They get about 15-20 minutes before leaving in the morning if they are ALL ready for school and then 30-45 min before dinner if homework is done. My husband and I usually walk the dog together during this time which is a nice break for us both. On the weekends they can usually play for 60-90 min per morning or so, but not before 7 am. They get the same 30-45 min at night. I wish it was less but that’s the best we’ve come up with that satisfies everyone.

  30. Rachel says...

    Oh man. The eternal conversation… it often turns into a “good parent/bad parent” situation, which frankly, sucks. My husband and I both work full time, our 2.5 year old is in preschool and our 6 year old is in virtual school from 8-3 (with breaks). He’s a super active kid, loves to ride bikes, run around with buddies (when permitted), loves to read, and is generally the opposite of a couch potato. But you know what? At the end of the day, he’s toast. He’s exhausted and just needs a brain break. And sometimes, that brain break is TV. We don’t let him watch all day long, but sometimes it’s the before (and even during, gasp!) dinner break he needs. We monitor what he watches, and often times, he even has a book with him while he’s watching, but it is what it is.

  31. Saundra says...

    I have a four year old and a 2 year old. We’ve been strict on zero screen time (except a monthly Skype with family). I’ve always worked part time from home, but now my Zoom time has exploded, they do occasionally sneak in and watch the calls, but other than that we’ve been successful with this approach. I have to say, though, that we are fortunate to live in a place with ample outdoor space. My kids spend an average of 4 hours or so outside every day and I am so grateful for that option. If I lived in an apartment or home without easy access to the outdoors, no screen time would be much, much harder!

  32. LEANN LUCAS says...

    Ohhhh, good topic. My daughter is 11 and we let her can play video games on Wednesday and 2 hours on Saturday and Sunday. Because she is an only child and doesn’t see her friends (no school where we live) we do let her play on days when she is video calling her friends, as long as they are playing together. It feels like too much video game time to me but I try and keep in mind the friend component and we let her have a say in the rules and this is what we agreed on. Also, I love it when I listen in and she and her friends are giggling, chatting, and have a good time. I agree that it is so kid specific and I think the friend group makes such a big difference too. Almost all of my daughter’s friends play the same video games so it’s a huge point of connection for right now in their lives.

  33. Nad says...

    I hope you understand how privileged this question is. For many working parents having the luxury of free time to take long walks, give back rubs, watch movies, light candles,discuss religion, what happens when we die, and have deep conversations does not exist. Some parents are so busy working, cooking, cleaning, etc. that screen time essentially provides them with the ability to perform these much needed tasks, especially for single parents.

    • Christie says...

      I hate these kinds of responses. I think we all realize this. But just because it’s privileged doesn’t mean it’s not worth asking. Honestly, even “working” parents have these issues. I work full time running my own business. My husband works full time. We are homeschooling our kids because of Covid. Also, I am an adjunct professor. We are also busy, but we still worry about screen time.

    • Emily says...

      The question was what are your thoughts. That’s pretty open ended to me. If your thoughts are that it’s a huge lifesaver then that’s your answer. One could even argue that having a smart phone/tablet/laptop and internet or cell service to be able to use it is a privilege. Not every post has to have a disclaimer about privilege.

    • AG says...

      As a child of busy working parents growing up without screen time or internet or video games, we helped out with the working, cooking and cleaning. It was not often but we still had the luxury of long walks, watch movies, discuss religion and what happens when we die.

      I don’t see how the questions are privileged. Busy working single parents still talk to their children don’t they?

    • Elizabeth says...

      I grew up with full time working parents and we took walks and watched movies and talked about what happens when we die. They also let me watch TV sometimes so they could get stuff done, but they monitored what I was allowed to watch and I know they stressed about it. This is a completely legitimate conversation for parents to have, and I think Joanna’s wording was inclusive and open-ended.

    • Lindsay says...

      For the love, this is an open ended question. There’s no need to get offensive. Sheesh! Take your kids on that long walk or let them help you cook. They’ll love it.

    • Maria says...

      I think this is a super strange response. Conversations about life/death can happen while your tucking your kids into bed, or if you work nights and kid goes to bed without you, it can be done when you are waking them up or when your preparing a meal for them.. Same with back rubs. Same with any kind of walk (can be short walk).

      Even the very busiest and stressed parent probably is able to spend some amount of time in a given day with their kids…so why is it so privileged to spend that half hour or whatever that limited/busy amount of time talking (which is free) about religion, rubbing backs (also free) and going for a walk.

  34. Chelsea says...

    I have 3 kids ages 3, 6, and 9. We made a rule of no screens at all on weekdays. We do family movie night on Fridays, the kids get screens Saturday mornings, usually about 2 hours (they chose TV or Nintendo Switch), and a little on Sunday afternoons after lunch. This schedule has worked well for our family in this stage of life with the ages of our kids. Having clear rules and expectations really helps my kids and me so that they are not asking for screen time all of the time. And of course, we give ourselves grace when we are all tired or if my husband is at work late or I have a meeting at night. Sometimes I let my kids watch a 30 minute show while I cook dinner or when I am out for a meeting the kids watch a movie with my husband.

    • Mel says...

      Ours is similar and it’s a game changer. It takes the ‘when is this going to happen’ question out of the picture. No screens during the week. Family movie night one of the weekend nights and Saturday and Sunday morning cartoons for 2ish hours while Mom and Dad and baby sleep in. (we have a 4 year old). Any more than that and she gets incredibly difficult (whiny/mean/demanding).

  35. Anonymous says...

    I’m curious how parents whose kids are doing remote/distance learning are handling screen time. My kindergartner has to be on Zoom for an hour and a half (not all at once) with added time for synchronous art/PE on some days, plus she has activities on an online learning platform and a few apps to work on. We also do a weekly pizza and movie night, and a couple times a week she watches 20 min of her favorite show. Before COVID we limited screen time (apps or TV) to 30 min per day, but clearly that was then and this is now! Too much screen time definitely makes her cranky and sometimes more aggressive, so we’ve made extra time conditional on good behavior. How are you all balancing school screen time requirements?

    • CEW says...

      Could you homeschool for the year instead? Not trying to diminish the issue in any way or suggest that homeschooling is “easy,” but at that age I wouldn’t be worried about a kid falling behind, and you’re probably working just as hard to help her with virtual school than you would by printing off some weekly activities from Pinterest or what have you. Simply offering up as an option to lower the amount of screen time. It sounds like you’re a very involved parent for your child, so whatever happens I’m sure she will turn out to be a lovely, well-adjusted human!

  36. Kali says...

    What a great topic! So fun reading through the comments to see how different families approach this. I look to recommendations from professional groups a lot (Pediatricians, Family Practice Drs), but always wonder how most families implement those recommendations. We have a 3 yr old and a 4 week old, and I’ve been pretty strict about no screen time up until this year–pandemic plus a newborn, lots of things went out the window! Honestly, our 3 yr old had just never needed it, but this year we did. We started with a 30 min episode of sesame street on some weekend mornings so I could sleep in, to almost daily when she was taken out of daycare in March. Now that she is back in daycare, she still watches an episode on weekends and we all watch a movie together 1 or 2 times a week when we’re too exhausted to do anything else! While I feel pretty guilty about it, it is really fun. She asks a lot of questions and is really engaged. I still want to hold off on using any devices, and keep tv/movies as a mostly family activity, but we’ll see!

    • J says...

      We’re in a similar boat over here with a 3 year old and an 8 week old. We did almost no screen time before the pandemic, but eventually the combination of pregnancy, limited childcare, and toddlerhood made me relent. We started with very occasional blocks, but now my 3 year old watches Daniel Tiger for an hour each morning while my husband hangs with the baby and gets ready for work and I sleep, and he watches weekend mornings too. The me of one year ago would be pretty surprised, but my son still seems to be his sweet usual self, and I secretly kind of enjoy it, so I’m trying to be gentle on myself and just roll with it.

  37. Anna says...

    My kids (11&4) have zero screentime.
    They get to see one series a week that is especially for kids, it‘s half an hour.
    Sometimes I will see a suitable (as in:no excitement) documentary with my 11-year-old.
    They don’t miss anything, and I won‘t change anything, it works for all of us.

  38. Laura says...

    The most important element for our family is having clear parameters around the games and other screen time. That way, we do not have to endure constant negotiating/complaining/begging.

    With an 8-year old boy interested in video games and a 10-year old girl interested in shows, our system currently allows them to choose one hour of screen time on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Usually, it consists of them snuggled on the couch together watching one hour of her tv show follow by one hour of him playing video games while my husband and I enjoy a little extra sleep. Pizzamovienight (all one word) happens on Friday night, and we take turns choosing the movie that we watch while eating homemade pizza with leftover toppings.

    Simplicity and structure rule the house, which creates much more calm. I have learned to let out my impulsive side in other ways (e.g., randomly giving myself a haircut). Our children seem to thrive with structure and, without having to think about the schedule, they can spend their time and energy on more creative pursuits.

  39. Megan says...

    I actually just went to a parenting workshop on this. It’s amazing how screens affect so much in children and adults. A person’s brain isn’t fully developed till 21-25 so they say that too much screen time for children affects the growth of their frontal lobe. Some of the most important for kids is enough sleep and not too much screen time in terms of growth for their bodies and brains. One thing I found interesting is that they recommend no screens 2 hours before you go to sleep. It can affect how children (& adults) fall asleep/quality of sleep.

    I have 3 kids and am just trying to figure out the right balance. We don’t have a lot of screen time at home but if they could the kids would have way more. As parents we need those breaks but we need to be careful not to rely on screens all the time to entertain our kids. It is also good and healthy for kids to be bored (that’s where they learn to be creative) and also that’s when they start reading or playing with other things.

  40. marianne says...

    since lockdown, our son gets to watch a lot more TV. It’s mostly in the morning which allows my husband and me to work out, make coffee and start our day before we start ‘his day’. He usually watches TV from 6 am until 9 am and then he only gets maybe 30 mins before bed.
    He only gets the tablet when we are on long road trips and I like this rule. He never really asks for it. To each their own. ZERO JUDGEMENT. I find some kids can have the TV on and play\colour etc. at the same time. Our son is more of the type to be 100% involved in the show and it’s hard to even talk to him when he is watching. That’s the main reason why we limit it.

  41. Suzie says...

    My 5 year old watches an average of an hour of tv most days. Mostly PBS kids – Wild Kratts, Bug Diaries, but also whatever her friends are into — Lion Guard, My Little Pony. No video games. She is a slightly introverted only child. Shows give her a shared cultural point of reference as other kids. She and her friends often pick characters from a show and play for hours inventing new story lines and adventures. I didn’t watch tv as a child and don’t as an adult, but I see it’s value as a social connector.

  42. Nicole says...

    Since my four-year old was two, we’ve allowed screen time (with very limited selection: Peppa, Sarah and Duck, or Ben and Holly) alone only when we need to time as a couple alone together. This could be to have an important conversation or something more interesting ;-)

    When we’re all in the mood, we’ll watch movies together. It is not unusual for us to break it into parts (30 min-1 hour). My partner stops the movie frequently to ask her if she understands and explain what is happening or discuss parts of the movie that might be tricky for her to understand (or relate to larger discussions, like war, death, etc.). We found even with the simple shows, she is very sensitive to screen time (gets grumpy and catatonic after), so best to keep it very limited. She’s an only child, and because of COVID she has limited contact with others outside our house so loneliness, boredom, and balancing work and childcare are all issues for us right now. She does use the phone a lot (I have a ring on the back which makes it really easy for her to hold while moving about the house) to video call her cousins and grandparents who we can no longer see in person. They’ll read books, do crafts, make believe, or just show each other what they’re up to, the weather, lunch, etc. All of this is done without my partner or I. It’s really quite lovely that she gets to form her own relationship with them.

    For trips (or even afternoons at home when the weather is nasty) we’ve recently discovered that audiobooks really capture her attention without the screen side effects. Not all area created equal though! She loves the first few books of Harry Potter (we all do), which she had already had read to her several times each (so familiar stories might be good for younger kids). We’ll just put it on so we can all hear it and she’s so content to listen for hours while we chat quietly in the front seat. Our library has them free to download, so that is worth checking out if you have that service where you live.

  43. Christa says...

    We allow zero regular screen time for my daughter (now 5). Some exceptions would be the very occasional singular episode of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood via YouTube to help on a long road trip. I also took her to see The Wizard of Oz as they were showing it on the big screen (pre Covid) at a nearby theater and I couldn’t resist—she was mesmerized. To me, there is no benefit to regular screen time and there are lots of drawbacks. She attends a Waldorf school and their philosophy is consistent with screen avoidance, so it helps to feel supported by other families and her school in this. I love parenting guru Janet Lansbury’s take/have shared this article in the past to help others understand our choice. https://www.janetlansbury.com/2016/11/screen-time-studies-parents-should-know-about-guest-post-by-meghan-owenz-phd/

  44. MNmom says...

    As a white suburban mother of privilege, I am so over the idea that video games/screen time is inherently bad. I have friends that limit iPad/nintendo switch screen time but leave their TV on all day! Personally I think a kid-vegetable stuck in front of a TV/movie or a video game is the same. Except at least the video games require some hand-eye coordination. No doubt kids need diverse experiences in their day-to-day life – sports, reading, creative play — but I’m super over the shaming of owning these electronic devices.

    On the other hand, as someone with a middle school girl who just got her first phone, we do prevent access to social media (for now).

  45. Janey says...

    My boys are teens and we have no rules about screens except Wi-Fi goes off for everyone (adults included!) at 10pm and phones charge in the kitchen overnight. All 3 boys have school and love sport – all play at a national level so do loads of training, they also volunteer with the little kids teams, coaching etc. Otherwise they are on screen as much as they want. Now they’re older it’s a social thing where they “meet” and play with friends on xbox, laugh a lot, make incredible cities on minecraft, have taught themselves basic coding, make movies which they edit etc. One of them wrote and recorded an album during lockdown using his laptop along with his guitars.
    So personally I feel that screentime can be fun, sociable, entertaining, relaxing and creative for kids, just as it is for adults.

    • Sam says...

      As someone who grew up with very little television, this really spoke to me. Your boys seem to demonstrate great balance with screen time, which, personally, is my preference for our kids over strict limitations. Not having television while growing up taught me to read voraciously–but it also taught me to be absolutely glued to the screen when I was older because I didn’t know how to cope with that kind of stimuli. I also had to learn about a lot of cultural references (what is this Full House/Fresh Prince of Bel Air/Back to the Future/Dirty Dancing that you speak of?) wayyy after they happened, which had the effect of making me feel like a foreigner in my own country.

    • Kate says...

      I love the idea of shutting the WiFi off at 10 and am filing this away for future reference when my boys are a bit older—tho it would likely benefit my husband & me now!

  46. This is such an interesting topic!! I love reading everyone’s different perspectives, because what works best is so dependent on the kid and the family.

    We haven’t yet gotten to video game age, but our 4yo is allowed to have 30-45 minutes of tv shows after he’s up from “quiet time” (which used to be naptime lol!) I’ve found that it works best for us to have active playtime and outdoor time (rain, snow, or shine!) in the mornings, and then we all do better with a slightly more chill afternoon. (On daycare days, he has 20-30 minutes of videos between getting home and dinner.)

  47. Anouk says...

    My kid is 9 and has never played a video game. She’s never asked for it. If she wants to she can watch videos/movies every now and then. But that hardly ever happens. We don’t have any strict rules, but somehow it’s just nothing that we do and that’s why she finds other things to do I guess. Her brother is 2.5 and he’s interested, but like her it’s just not part of our daily life?

  48. Elizabeth Johnson says...

    We havent introduce true video games to our 8 yr olds yet. They have an old school game boy and they sometimes play frogger and pacman on it but they get bored with it after about 15 min. I am going to avoid todays level of video games as long as possible. We let the kids watch one show a day typically after school. not every day but most. They are usually the 20 minute netflix shows. On the weekend mornings we let this slide a bit as we relax for an hour or so. We will wait as long as possible for cell phones and social media. Hopefully late middle school. We will see how long we can hold out but my nieces who have them are on them all of the time.

  49. Ellie says...

    Our kids only get TV at weekends and occasionally after school when my mum is looking after them and she needs to go and look after my 101 year old grandfather for a short while. Never before bed and never before school. It affects them hugely, especially my eldest. She cannot cope with being in the TV world and then abruptly coming back to this world. It almost affects her physically, like it’s sore for her. The first time she watched Frozen, aged 4, she was incoherent for a full hour after it ended. Just couldn’t transition. So we have strict limits, and I’m considering limiting further as their moods are so sulky when they’ve had TV. We don’t do tablets or phones for games or shows at all.

  50. caroline says...

    I just finished reading Digital Minimalism, which advocates for way less screen time in favor of “high-quality leisure” – making things with your hands, joining groups for connection. In the last 3 days, I’ve raked leaves in the yard, hung photos all over my house, finished another book, went on more walks, found time for morning yoga and more cuddle time with my dog… I feel freer and hope to keep it up.

    • Ellen says...

      I love Cal Newport (Deep Work as well as Digital Minimalism…).

  51. pm says...

    Don’t have much to add. Just want to say: I love this photo and am really grateful for your honesty and for your absolutely radiant soul, Joanna.

  52. Megan Johnson says...

    My daughter cannot handle long periods on her iPad. She becomes really short tempered and irritable. So we told her that! We were like, “Hey, we’ve noticed when you spend a lot of time on your iPad, you speak disrespectfully and throw more tantrums. If you want to keep spending time on your iPad, you need to be more mindful of your attitude.” That didn’t immediately solve the problem, but when she’d lose her iPad privileges for talking back or slamming her door, we’d remind her of this pattern we were seeing. Eventually, she got it, and now, we give her 10-minute warnings before she has to log off. Both strategies have helped!

  53. Mina says...

    My kids (9.5, 8, 6.5 yrs old) have 0 screentime during the week (except whatever they have at school – they do a lot of work digitally, as well as some programming games etc at their after-school program). On Friday nights they all watch a couple of shows or a movie together (we usually join them). And occasionally they will have some additional screen time during the weekend (playing mario cart with a friend, or watching a movie all together). That’s it.

    They are generally harmonious, well-rested, happy, creative kids. They are great at playing (which I think some kids today have almost forgotten how to do).

    When we have had periods of time with more screen time – when they’ve been sick or during some travel – we usually quit cold turkey after and those first couple of days can be rough. But then they remember how to play and all is well again.

    • Mina says...

      Also, I really think it’s easier to increase screen time or loosen up your rules, than it is to dial them back once you’ve opened the faucets. So I really try to hold out as long as I can with each new request (my 9 yr old wants a smart phone). I’d rather wait as long as I can to give them a new device or similar, than give it, regret it, and have to get us back to normal.

  54. Kate says...

    This year looks VERY different, obviously, but we usually do no-TV-during-the-week and then family movies and some kid TV shows on the weekend. That has continued to work for our 8- and 10-year-olds who have in-person school four days a week. They have remote learning on Wednesdays, so we usually do a Masterchef Junior or Great British Bake-off in the evening to wind down.

    Our 5-yr-old is only in school for what seems like 11 min a day (2 hrs), so he watches a Sesame or two with our 2-year-old for quiet time every day.

    This year is a wash, and you have to do whatever works and keeps you sane–but for our kiddos, I think that the 30-60 minutes of quiet we’re afforded while they are in front of a screen sometimes results in more emotional tumult for everyone later.

  55. Ellen says...

    I grew up without TV (or video games), and we’re doing the same with our kiddos now. It’s just…not a priority…and I know if it were a part of our lives, it could take so much of our time. I spend all day at work on a computer, but my husband and I don’t want screens creeping into other parts of our lives too much…so we’ve also resisted smartphones so far. It’s been working for us.

    • agnes says...

      Same here; I can already see what a huge difference it makes in terms of concentration, personnality; teachers notice quickly if your kid is having too much screen or none at all. For us, it’s really not a part of our world (but I work a lot on computers, so I know that at home, I don’t want to see any; exceptions: when my kid is asleep: I rush to read Cup of jo ;-))

  56. Eve says...

    My 8 year old son is only allowed to play plastation during the weekends, then he is allowed to play for two hours, but he still has to finish his homework first, read and math.

  57. Elisabeth says...

    We do about an hour of screen time per day for our five year old (who is homeschooling this year because of the pandemic). We also watch a movie as a family on Friday nights. And if there is any complaining or arguing when screen time is up, she loses it for the next day. It actually works really well (though last night she got in trouble for a particularly snippy no more screen time transition…). Love reading what others post!

  58. Lauren says...

    3 kids ages 7, 5 and 4 here! No screens Mo through Thurs. On Friday night we watch movie together, and on Sat and Sun they are allowed 30 mins to an hour of a show of their choosing. As a general rule with exceptions for illnesses etc., the kids never have screen time alone, always with their siblings. We don’t and won’t have video games at home, they can read or build or craft or cook or practice instruments. I want them present and creatively engaged in reality, and I also have zero interest in policing devices, so the long term hassle outweighs the convenience for me. A lot of my friends aren’t so strict about it and I think that’s fine, and my kids can do whatever at someone else’s house, but I don’t see an ultimate benefit to screens other than family movies and a couple shows and would rather just not introduce it. My policy is much messier, though, and accepting that crafting over TV watching will simply make more work for me in our small-ish city apartment is a challenge for me sometimes.

  59. Christie says...

    We’ve always been very strict about screen time. We aren’t video game players, and we don’t really watch TV anyway (my husband and me). My kids are allowed to watch cartoons on Saturday and Sunday morning, and we often watch a family movie once a week. Sometimes we’ll let the kids watch a PBS nature show. Cartoons are usually PBSKids, but sometimes they watch Thomas or Shaun the Sheep. My kids are 9, 6, and 3. I was very influenced by a series of articles several years ago about how the Silicon Valley execs, including Steve Jobs, did not let their kids have screen time. I see it what it does to grown ups, and how it has ruined all human interactions. You can barely talk to someone else without them looking at their phones. You walk down the street, and everyone is staring at their phone or listening to their phone. I wanted to give my kids this period of childhood not influenced by screens because they will have the entire rest of their lives to be slaves to the screen. We don’t espouse any sort of philosophy, other than we have a small house, so our kids have few toys, mostly a trainset, blocks, magnatiles, and a dollhouse, plus lots of books. Yet I have almost never heard them say they are bored. Unless they are reading, they are rarely not playing with another child. It’s not perfect. There are fights. But I will say that I most of the time feel like I have messed so many things up with parenting. I have gotten so many things wrong. But this is one area I do not regret our decision.

  60. Elizabeth says...

    I don’t have my own children but I’m a primary school teacher in Australia and have strong opinions about this! I’ve seen kids coming to school having never held a pencil and swiping books as if they are an iPad. Obviously those are extreme cases but overall kids are showing less fine motor skills ( their little hand muscles just don’t have the strength), a total lack of imagination and creativity about anything other than games, incredibly short attention spans and poor social and speech skills. It breaks my heart for these little ones because from day one they are already behind. Keep up the short screen time limits parents!

  61. Gemma says...

    Magí is 9 years old and Cora is 5. We do 40 minuts on mornings and 40 minuts on evenings (Ipad or cell phone). But now that they go to school again, from monday to friday they do only 40 minuts on evening . I don’t know if that’s okay, they’re really more anxious when they’re with small screens. But it’s a hard time, we stay at home more than ever!!

  62. Daria says...

    I live in France and the opinion on screens here is very negative! The advised rule (that of course not everyone follows) is 3-6-9-12, as in
    – no screens before 3
    – no video games before 6
    – no Internet before 9, and then only with you next to the computer
    – limited & controlled Internet after 12

    And screens are the worst in the morning (maybe you have read Céline Alvarez’s book? She’s a wonderful and innovative teacher, and in her experimental class she says they always knew which kids were watching TV in the morning).

    Our daughter saw no screens at all until the pandemic (so until almost 4). Now she occasionally sees them, for English lessons, and some of the ballets she loves (like the Royal Opera House “Peter and the wolf”, danced by the pupils of their academy – it’s wonderful!) But seeing how she gets needy and angry, asking to see it every time she’s a little bored, we’re hesitant to extend movie time!!

  63. Sally says...

    I have boy-girl twins who will be 4 in January. The only screen they have anything to do with at the moment is the tv, and I generally follow the same rules my parents used. It goes on when they are tired/fractious, and if mum needs a bit of time to herself!
    At the moment, they don’t know what tablets are, and haven’t realised phones are for anything more than calling someone, texting, or taking photos. They don’t need them, and we don’t really want the battle of “screen time”! We plan to hold off as long as possible.
    My parent has, and enjoys, playing on games consoles, but deliberately doesn’t have any “kid games”, and doesn’t usually play any games until after the children are in bed.

    • Sally says...

      I said “parent” in that last paragraph… I meant “husband”! *facepalm*

  64. Marianne says...

    I need to make screen rules for myself…. *Sighs*

    • b says...

      Same. I’m always thankful to not have grown up with a screen in my hand, but now I can’t seem to quit it.

    • Allyson says...

      ha! That’s how I’m feeling, too. There are a lot of good ideas/suggestions here but I think I need a digital intervention along with my toddler. I’m going to get Allen Carr’s “Smart Phone, Dumb Phone” book and see if it helps. I’ve read really good things about his methods for quitting smoking, drinking, etc.

  65. Ilaria says...

    Before we had a 30 min screen time, now my oldest kids (8 and 9) can have some time extra the days they have sport activities. They might burs into screaming and whining after screen time after watching youtube videos (skate boarding, nerf battles, etc.) or playing free games with lots of advertisements. So now we have switch to playing games on PS, and sometimes we adults will join too. They are more calm and supportive of each other. The little one (3) can watch TV for 30 min. We have also one day screen free day, so there is time for table games/craft/other family activities and movie night once a week. It is a continuous reassessment!

    • Hayley B says...

      Off topic, but I just wanted to pop in here to say I love your name! It’s so lyrical!

  66. Elise says...

    I thought I’d go easy on myself during lockdown, being a new single parent to a 3 year old, and let the tv run liberally throughout the day. But actually it was my toddler who started saying that it was “too noisy, too busy”. I had just assumed he would be entertained by it but actually he played by himself so well as soon as it was off, so I could even have a quiet moment to read. I suppose our kids surprise us every day!

  67. Claire May says...

    My boys are 7 and 10 and video games are the biggest incentive for them to do anything! The 10 year old plays Minecraft with 2 friends online which we started during lockdown to keep him connected. This has continued now they are back at school for 30 mins a day AFTER all homework is completed and before dinner. The 7 year old is playing Minecraft or Lego Star Wars on the iPad for 30mins. And that is all during the week. They can get 1 hour each day on the weekend if they are well behaved. We don’t watch TV during the day other than sports. The 7 year old always has a tantrum when he is told to get off the device because it is never long enough!

  68. Eline says...

    That is such a wonderful observation! I recently listened to Nir Eyal’s book ‘Indistractable’ and he describes how he had discussions with his (very young) daughter on the effects of media on overall well-being and they came to an agreement together. I was rather impressed with the story and thought it could be something for us once Anna is a little bigger (she is now 2.5 years). I love the idea of outlining / explaining the effects of media (whether it is series / videos or social media) and finding a solution together. Might be an idea?

  69. Anna says...

    Yes, movies feel different!! I have two girls, 5 and 3.5, so video games aren’t really a thing for them yet…but I remember that being the only thing I wanted to do as a kid when I went over to a friend’s house who had a Nintendo so I can only imagine how sticky today’s games must be.

    But I was thinking of this post while watching ‘Room on the Broom’ on Netflix with my husband, 5 and 3.5 year old tonight.

    A big family cuddle on the couch, with such a sweet little film, 20 minutes of imaging together. No one pressured to talk or engage at the end of a Monday, but all of us close and experiencing the same whimsical journey together.

    We’ve had similar experiences watching Wonder, Hook, The Snowman, Sing, Big Hero 6, Moana and other films at home over the last 7 months…they’ve sparked conversations around love, friendship, death, aging, human motivation and humor and gosh, are just so beautiful!

    What a window into other worlds it has been during a time when other options have been so limited, when many days I’ve been numb with anxiety, fear or loneliness. What a gift to laugh, to cry, at the end of those days. What a gift to escape for an hour or two. To rest.

    And so, for one or two hours a day – sometimes more – we have screens. Sometimes as a family, sometimes solo.

    It’s more time than I’ve personally ever watched tv or movies (I grew up as a PBS-only kid until age 12, which was *awesome* for being in on pop culture references, lol), but for now it feels right. I tell myself maybe after all of this one of my daughters will grow up to be an animator or producer. ;)

    • J says...

      love this.

  70. Naomi says...

    Thank you for this post! So many thoughts. 2 boys, 10 and 12. Screen time. We let them have an hour and half after school except Wed (I am at work til late and my husband is way stricter than I am). They have the same amount of time in the mornings as well at weekends (lie in for us 😀, generally no scrapping between them to be dealt with). This is separate from family tv/film time, which feels like a very different thing and something we all enjoy together. Just started watching Ghosts (uk tv thing, very funny). The boys tell us they have loads less screen time than their mates – true of some, not others. I tell them they have more than I would like so I guess it is a compromise. They love video games – I don’t get it, didn’t really play any growing up – but I figured a while back we were going to have to go with the flow with this one, to a point. It is quite tricky with my youngest at the moment – he makes a massive fuss about coming off, we are the worst parents, and seems particularly affected by the time he has spent playing. This passes and he will engage in a whole load of other activities which makes me feel like a better parent but I am quite sure at the moment gaming is the most exciting part of his day. We talk about the gaming – how much he loves the games and playing with his friends but how I see the impact on him of playing lots – irritable, even sad, sometimes. Our eldest was very similar at the same age – but we have stuck to the same rules and he will regulate himself now, understands what time he has so is organised about when he arranges to play with his pals, comes off without a fuss – mostly. They both have phones, since they walk to school (thank goodness they are back in school full time) so I am sure they cram in as much extra screen time as they can when I am not with them but all devices go away after home screen time, not out at meals or if we go out places together. Hard to see screens not being a big part of their lives now and in the future (for study, work and down time) and I guess they will need to learn how to manage this. We do talk to them about impact of screens (pros, cons, safety) and I have shifted myself to see it now as part of their lives (and mine, writing this message in bed, bedrooms supposed to be screen free 🤦‍♀️, my husband woke me up by sneezing and I am struggling to get back to sleep). I do worry about screen time (feeling like I am letting my boy’s brains turn to mush!) but I totally agree with others that this is a ‘luxury problem’ to have and, like so many of the things I thought I would do or not do as a parent, it isn’t what I imagined but I think it will be ok xx

  71. Brooke says...

    Almost no screentime, except on airplanes and when we visit cousins. My kids (7,5,1) are happier and more creative without it. 7yo & 5yo have even identified that they feel grumpy if they watch much tv

  72. SB says...

    I don’t have children of my own, so take this with a (big) grain of salt! A few years ago, however, I was regularly childminding and teaching English to four separate families with children all around the same age (some solo kids, some siblings, but all falling between ages 3-5; seeing all of them at least 2 times a week, some more).

    It was the first time the “screen-time debate” really clicked with me because I could see such a drastic difference in the kids who were allowed unlimited time vs limited vs none. But I also became acutely aware of the usefulness of screen-time for educational purposes, for kids to relax/unwind, for adult carers to get other necessary tasks accomplished, etc. The experience definitely moulded my views of what I think I’ll maybe try to do at the hypothetical point in the future when I have littles of my own, but the number one constant (which Jo highlighted) is it’s also so clearly soooo kid-specific.

    As always – love this comment section and dialogue – it feels like having the most meaningful and supportive conversation about something really tricky with a bunch of sisters and friends :) :)

  73. Stella says...

    What a conversation! I’m not a parent but I’m a teacher and I’d like to add that it’s such a privilege to limit screentime! We hear about white, affluent families limiting screentime because it’s better for kids, or even charter/private schools who have limited/no screens. But it’s not like these more privileged kids don’t have access to tech at home and it’s not like they’re not learning how to use tech to be digitally literate.

    I think equity and tech/screens depends on *how* that time is spent, and many studies show that screen time in schools for children of color is focused on remediation, and drill & kill, all while stifling creativity. While white children in more affluent schools and families tend to get screentime focused on creativity, expression, and coding, etc. I suggest checking out Ken Shelton @kshelton on Instagram, he’s a teacher and an expert in tech equity, or “techquity.”

  74. Emma says...

    Disclaimer: I’m in Australia which is faring a lot better than other countries in terms of Covid. It’s much easier to be outside here! I have seven-year-old twins who have 40 minutes of screen time a day, be that Netflix or a video game. It works well for us and I’m fortunate that they can take or leave it. They had no screen time at all for the first two years, then we added ten minutes or so to get to our current arrangement.

  75. Liz says...

    When we moved in together about 15 months ago, my partner and I decided we’d create a routine with VERY limited screen time for our three kiddos (now 7, 8, 9). Previously, my boys had had pretty lenient though not excessive screen time as I was learning to navigate being a single mom! He had been noticing his daughter’s behavior got really awful when she had iPad/personal screentime and so we decided it would be good for all of them. We watch 1-2 TV shows together as a family a week, and sometimes a movie on a weekend night. For a special occasion having friends over, the kids will play video games in the basement while us adults hang upstairs. On the very rare occasion, we will offer 30 mins of iPad time for all three if we need a break or as a reward for good behavior. It made remote school and WFH a little harder this year to do it this way, and we would sometimes turn on a show if one or both of us had an important meeting, but we were able to avoid it for the most part. I’m grateful to live in CO where we can send the kids outside to play, even in the snow!

  76. Beth says...

    I think as a mom I want to get better at channeling my mom and nana’s “go entertain yourself” vibes instead of feeling like I have to entertain my daughter if she’s not watching the iPad. I think screen time is a break for a lot of us bc we are trying to meet unrealistic standards of being present with and entertaining our kids Pinterest style.

  77. Jaime says...

    I have a 3.5 year old. Prior to this year, we limited her screen time to 30 min in the morning, 30 minutes in the evening. But then in 2020, I was pregnant and exhausted, preschool closed, we had a new baby, and lost family childcare due to COVID. I’m bummed to say our daughter watches probably 3 + hours a day now—while I’m cleaning up, cooking, feeding and putting the baby to sleep. She just can’t seem to independently play/entertain herself while I do these necessary activities. Any suggestions would be appreciated!

    • First, you do what you have to do! There is no shame in letting some rules relax for a season or two if that’s what you need to make everything work.

      Second, if you do need alternatives, I found that audiobooks are great! We started with short ones (5-8 minutes), either in the car or at mealtimes, usually with a story or characters we had already met in a book. Now my 4yo will listen to 20-30 minutes at a time, often while building duplos or playing with clay or some other solo activity. And we still love them in the car!

    • Meaghan says...

      First, with a new baby, all bets are off, and don’t feel guilty about screen time.

      Second, a couple things that worked for me – (1) I gave my 3 year old his Kindle Fire when I had to put baby to sleep, but I took it back when I came out. He understood that was the deal; (2) music! We have Alexa-enabled speakers all over the house and my kiddo loves putting music on – there’s something about music in the background that makes independent play seem less independent (also, things like, “no you can’t watch Moana, but we can listen to the music” worked well); (3) activities that you can set up quickly and walk away from – I got some from Busy Toddler (instagram) which are GREAT, but also things like starting the train track so he can finish it and play trains (and then leaving it up for a week), pulling out his kitchen stuff to work with while I cook, setting up a painting station with coloring book pages from his favorite movies – a 5-10 min set up often got me 30-45 min; (4) sand timers – I worked my way up t0 30, but we started with a 5 min timer set for independent play while I did “x”, sometimes he kept playing sometimes not, but giving them the sense of time is so helpful.

  78. Kylee says...

    We have a 6 yo and a 3 yo and we keep screen time for the weekend, except my weekly grocery trip, since I don’t like taking them with during the current pandemic and my husband is on calls all day at home. I try not to rely on screen time as a break, but it feels extra peaceful during our Saturday morning cartoons. We have time in the evenings after dinner when we play little wooden puzzle games and tic tac toe. It’s my favorite part of the day. I do agree that every child reacts differently with screen time and I don’t believe there’s one way for parents to go about it.

  79. Monica says...

    Our rules have morphed over the years and we consider them more like guidelines. After baby #2 I was on bedrest and my then 3 year old watched a LOT of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. To everything there is a season.

    We don’t have a TV unit or iPads. We have a computer and it’s used for show watching together if we do watch anything. All computer activity is done in the main living area where anyone can see, so there’s nothing hidden.

    We usually watch for learning purposes and only on weekdays – currently my 7 year old is obsessed with bees and is watching beekeeping stuff on YouTube maybe once or twice per week.

    We’re working hard to model and instill positive habits in this medium, knowing that any engagement our children have with the technology will change them.

  80. beth says...

    My son’s now 21, but oh how I remember being in the same place as you and Anton. Whenever my son got in trouble at that age, we’d mandate, “No electronics!” (haha, not sure why we called it that), and after the initial tears caused by the video games being taken away, all of this pure childhood genius would suddenly emerge. My son would literally play the piano for hours (he still does this, actually), read books, make insane Lego creations and even more insane stop-motion animation movies with a digital camera using those Lego creations as actors and props, make incredible drawings, and basically become this amazing little philosopher. It’s a hard call though because video games are everywhere, and not letting him participate at all seemed like it could potentially isolate him from his peers at school (still not sure if that’s a rational argument, but I struggled with the thought nonetheless). Our compromise eventually became no video games at all during the school week, weekends with a time limit. School vacations I increased the limits a bit, but still kept it to every other day. I really think the kids need a break from playing video games, even if they howl and protest!

  81. Angeline K says...

    After reading through the bulk of these comments and noting the anguish of parents who feel they’re letting down their kids by not regulating screen time, I just want to say please DON’T beat yourselves up over it. If it feels like getting your kids/your spouse/yourself off screens is an uphill battle, that’s because IT IS; because the tech industry is actively and deliberately working on KEEPING you glued to screens. The dirty little secret is that Silicon Valley execs are fully aware of how addictive their apps/games/iPads/iPhones/PlayStations/Xboxes etc are and many keep their own kids firmly away from devices as a result — see the classic example of Steve Jobs’ (RIP) strict enforcement of NO devices for his kids when he was alive, even while setting Apple devices loose on the rest of the world.

    This is true not just for the socials with their all-powerful algorithms working to keep you perpetually hooked on the feeds — as in FB, Instagram, Twitter, etc, with Facebook execs in particular being notoriously obsessed with engagement stats and how to drive up user engagement — but also the video games, especially the AAA games. Game companies actually hire psychologists to work alongside the game developers and coders to design games in such a way as to maximise “stickiness” (making it deliberately hard to put down the game), by structuring “levels”/stages and doling out various “rewards’’ (ie dopamine hits for the brain) at specific junctures in the game — whether that means unlocking hard to find items, better weapons/tools, or boosts to speed up level progressions — in order to make players feel good about their progress/themselves, who then become “addicted” to the feel-good dopamine hits, and are then motivated to keep going endlessly. This is why so many gamers, especially younger kids, react badly when told to stop playing, because you’re essentially depriving an “addict” of his or her next “high” from the game.

    Additionally a lot of the games today are open-ended, which means there’s no “ending” or ultimate boss/level to work towards and conquer, so that players can go on indefinitely. Worse still, once they’ve hooked gamers, a lot of these games (especially the free-to-play but with in-app purchases enabled types) pressure players into spending real-world money in order to enable their next hit of dopamine — Fortnite for example puts new players’ avatars into a generic outfit that instantly outs them as a noob to others, painting a target on their backs, so players MUST spend real $$ to get the in-app currency (V-bucks) in order to upgrade to a better outfit. From there it’s a slippery slope to upgrading weapons, tools etc in order to gain an advantage in the last-man-standing game, which can add up quick.

    For me awareness is a big step towards combating the addictiveness of the games, but the harder part to navigate is how toxic and unwelcoming the gaming community can be (look up Gamergate for details) to women, minorities and anyone else they don’t like. I don’t want my kids exposed to the foul-mouthed mean-spirited often misogynistic trash-talking that’s common in a lot of Internet-connected multiplayer games, especially the MMORPG types (League of Legends, Dota 2, etc) where you have to form a “clan”, often with total strangers online, to work towards goals together. So I only get them games that allow them to play multiplayer mode offline with their siblings. Even in games targeted at younger kids like Minecraft or Roblox, you do have to be careful that kids can only play on specific servers or better still unconnected to the Internet at large, because there have been known instances of pervs and paedophiles targeting young kids on these games. There have been news reports of predators tricking girls as young as 8 to send risqué pics of themselves in exchange for virtual weapons in online games — a constant reminder for us as parents that we need to know what type of games our kids are into and more importantly who they may be interacting with online. To me this is more important than worrying about the amount of time they spend on screens (hello 2020) — so long as you’ve set up the necessary parental controls to keep them safe online from the worst of the Web, and you’re keeping tabs on where their headspace is (YouTube/Twitch/Minecraft etc making them irritable/numb? Remove YouTube/Twitch/Minecraft and replace with physical activities as much as humanly possible), letting the kids loose on the screens to get yourselves a few much-needed hours of downtime is nothing to feel bad about. It’s a global pandemic, we’re all just trying to do the best we can.

  82. Jen says...

    Tell Anton exactly what you wrote here. Be honest and caring. It’s likely that he’s noticed a difference as well and kids truly do like boundaries as much as they fight them. Also, it’s easy to assume that other people’s kids aren’t affected by gaming but you never know what happens in someone else’s home and every kid is different. Do what’s right for your kid and your family.

  83. Kara says...

    We’ve actually increased the amount of time our twin boys can play video games because of the pandemic. They’re a bit older (10). But video games give them no-contact playtime with their friends. They’re all on headsets in their own homes, and they all chat and laugh and sometimes get in arguments (which they have to work out). It’s really helped with the social isolation, especially when we’re quarantined.

  84. Regina says...

    This is a bit of a tangent, but I would love to hear more about talking to kids about religion in a way that lets them explore/evaluate different ones. I love the idea of children choosing for themselves which one aligns best with their own beliefs and the sense of agency this could give them. I wasn’t raised that way, but it’s something I’m definitely interested in when eventually raising children of my own. I’d love to hear how other navigate this!

  85. Anne says...

    We have boys that are almost 7 and almost 9. They are super active and also love (kid friendly) video games. We established a 30 minute daily rule. So every morning at 11:00 they set their own timer for 30 minutes and play. And guess what, they actually stop playing when their timer goes off! I was surprised by how well this works but I think it comes down to a regular routine and their level of control over part of it.

  86. Ashley says...

    I noticed when my son was 5 that video games really affected his mood. He would get mad when his 30 minutes were up and fight with me. We made him stop playing altogether for a while. Now he is 8 and video games are never an issue. Sometimes he’ll go a month without playing them, and he has no problem stopping when 30 minutes are up. I think there are stages where video games have a greater affect on their mood and you have to adjust as you go.

  87. Em says...

    Could talk about this all day :) We have a 2- and a 4-year-old. They watch about 15-30 minutes of TV most days, not on a certain schedule (sometimes more on the weekend if we watch a movie together!). One thing that has really helped with the transition when screen time is over is that they know if they whine or complain, there will be no show the next day. We’ve also decided that we will not have personal devices (tablets/phones, etc.) until they are much older, likely when they start driving (I feel VERY firmly about this). Especially when young, one communal screen versus individual ones seems to have so many benefits to us: they have to learn to share/compromise over what is being watched, and watching is a communal experience being shared between siblings, and often the parent cooking or doing whatever in the background :) Generally, we try not to make TV more or less than it is – just a fun part of a full life!

  88. Kasia Keenan says...

    Long before we had my daughter, I remember reading how Steve Jobs and most of the execs in Silicon Valley did not let their kids do screens as it killed the imagination and took away creativity.

    I remember myself growing up in Poland with only 5 minutes a night for short cartoon aired by our government at the time.
    So here we are it’s 2020 and I have a 3 1/2 year old. We let her watch 10 minutes of tv Friday-Sunday night and the rest we read, play music as we cook and at times I’ll play Peppa the Pig but only on audio for her to listen to and use her imagination to fill in what it looks like.

    I think the art of connection and conversation is being eroded as screens are finding their way to even the family meals.

    I’ve read the placing guardrails on screens helps our children set limits. It’s like candy…yes, it’s going to taste good and yes, they’ll want it but it doesn’t mean they should have it all or be in control of setting the limits when their young minds don’t fully grasp the desire for that instant gratification. At the same time, I think it also starts with us. What are we as the adults modeling for them.

    I’ll close with this….I love going against the grain. I have taken over 6 long distance trips with my toddler and where it would have been easy to give her an I-pad or turn on a movie, I thought to myself what did people do in the past? It’s made for some creative times, lots of reading and interesting toys. On my last trip from Europe, the flight attended walked up to me and said this is something we have not seen…you’ve flown for 9 hours without a device for your child.

  89. Amy says...

    In the morning, my 4 y.o gets about 20 – 30 minutes screen time while he’s eating breakfast. Usually, 5 minutes before the time is up, I let him know I’m going to set the timer for five minutes. Once the timer rings, He turns off the iPad and I give him his smarty pants vitamins (which he loves). After daycare, he’ll get another 30 minutes and then it’s bath time with his baby sister. I usually make them a big bubble bath with a bowl of strawberries or sliced kiwis. If he has something to look forward to I find it’s easier for him to get off the iPad. Also, we always let him turn off the iPad (less melt downs this way!) I grew up with unlimited screen time, and I don’t think it was the greatest…so I do try hard to limit his screen time but I just don’t want him to know it!

  90. Dorie says...

    I had this EXACT experience when my boys got in trouble over the summer and lost video game privileges for several weeks. All my boys were so present – but especially my middle child. It was a wonderful time. Since then we’ve decided to do video games one day per week. On Friday afternoons, they play from 3pm-8pm. It’s intense, and sometimes I wonder if it might be too long, but they love it and every other day of the week they’re so much happier. I think it was almost a relief for them not to have to think about it six days a week. Highly recommend!!

  91. Catharine says...

    No video games here, kids are ages 6 and 4. Neither my husband nor I play video games so it is not a temptation. I hope to keep it that way as long as possible, because I love their sweet, innocent interests and passions!!

  92. Alicia says...

    two hours per kid on the weekend. The older one (10) just negotiated himself 15 more minutes per weekend day in exchange for clearing the dinner table every night.

    Screen time is transferable: it can be TV or computer or games but it all counts towards the total. And after that, nothing until family movie night if we watch one.

    Setting the weekend limit was necessary because I was exhausted having to negotiate and argue over how much and when during the week. Problem solved…for now.

  93. Jessica says...

    Our son is 6 and we were not going to introduce video games until later but we wanted some more activities during Covid. We dug up the old Game Boy Color and he is allowed to play for about 30 min in the evenings if he finishes his chores.
    One sweet thing he does which I did not expect is that he has translated the video games into his regular (non-screen) playtime. He writes and illustrates books about the games, tries to create costumes for himself, writes the rhythm of the theme songs out on paper, and runs around outside pretending to be the characters. He convinced us to let him watch some of the play-throughs on youtube and he started taking notes about the scenery so he could recreate it with his legos.
    He does have a tendency to get immersed in these things so we continue to limit the time he has to play, but I enjoy observing how he uses his creativity to bring the stories to life.

  94. K says...

    We cut waaay back on screens when my kids were 4 & 8. Not because of any beliefs about screens and kids, but because I simply could not have another argument when it was time to turn off the TV. At first it was cold turkey and then we added back in a weekend movie or a movie with a sleepover. The change was immediate and immense! They were happier, chattier, more fun. They played They read. They made weird things. And—they sought out other kids who played and read and made weird things. I wish I could take credit for knowing it was the right thing and doing it, but I was just annoyed with the whining and got lucky. They are older now (8 and 12) and this still works for us—and I still think it’s the best thing I ever did for them. I watched TONS of TV and played TONS of video games as a kid and I can’t think of a single wonderful memory that includes either.

    • Caitlin says...

      Your last sentence really struck me, such a good point and definitely true for me too. You sound like a really good mom. :)

  95. My daughter has one hour of screen time in the morning for one hour. She loves “The Kids Should See This.” She listens to audio books to wind down before dinner for an hour and a half.
    The rest of the time it is all extremely limited. She is nine and does not use video chat for school but will occasionally watch educational videos. Sometimes when it’s really rainy, she is sick or we feel like it we watch movies, shows and play video games as a family but it’s not regular.

  96. Natalie says...

    We have a 5 year old boy and almost 3 year old daughter and have not exposed them to screens yet. They play with each other and with their toys and seem to have no trouble occupying themselves. If they do get bored, so be it, but they don’t miss what they don’t have. I just want to preserve their innocence and their imaginations for as long as possible. This winter, we may start to treat our son to a special show/movie on Friday night and just make it an occasional (or weekly) treat to look forward to. I don’t want to deprive them of the pleasure that comes with watching t.v.—but I do want to postpone the imprint of television and media for as long as I can.

  97. Anon Please says...

    Help! I have a question! . . . What if it’s not your kid????? . . . . . My nephews (between ages 5-10) have been addicted to their ipads for years……. What started as a meal-reward tool is now a full blown addiction. They constantly request it from their parents. It feels like it’s no longer a reward, but demanded …………… Since these are not my kids (and since I personally don’t have any yet), I don’t feel like I can speak up. I want to be a good role model in their lives and be a good Aunt/support my sibling in their parenting, but I’m not sure there’s anything I can really do to help? I also don’t live in the same town as they do. ……… The comments section here has been very interesting from perspective of parents . . . . . Any advice for well-meaning Aunts who don’t want to speak out-of-place ??!

    • Hayley B says...

      Anon, your question really spoke to me — I’m also a child-free aunt and I was in almost the exact same situation as you, except I was living with my 4 nephews and their parents as well as mine full-time (multi-generational home, I was often home from Uni on long breaks while the nephews were in primary/elementary school), and so I had a lot of insight into the kiddos’ daily routines. This gave me a tad bit more cachet with their parents since i was often home with the boys and able to observe them up close while their parents were out at work, but that only went so far. I could for example scold them if they were caught red-handed doing something wrong but I couldn’t really “punish” punish them. I did however merrily snitch on them every chance I got, ha! But the important thing is that their parents knew my “oversight” of the boys came from a loving place, to help them deal with boundaries, not a malicious desire to mess up their lives and throw my weight around. Their parents were the typical overworked white collar office professionals who often felt guilty that they weren’t spending as much time with the kids as they would’ve liked, so at the end of a long day they often felt they didn’t want to immediately go into Punisher mode or were just too tired to deal with whatever trouble the kids had gotten up to that day (fights with each other, ripping up each other’s books, hiding overdue library books, swindling school friends out of the Vitagen/Yakult drinks they’d bought at school that day, not doing their homework, etc — with 4 boys and just a 2-year gap between each child, there was usually a LOT happening at once) and so I often found myself trying to keep them in line just to minimize the chaos.

      In your case, I’d advise you to play the long game, and try to get to know the kids and establish a relationship with them. If your sibling + their spouse see you making an effort with your nephews, it’ll go a long way towards them being more receptive to any input from you. Since you’re not living in the same town, you might wanna tread lightly and not straightaway point out the kids’ “wrongdoing” or shortcomings when it comes to screen time — it can very quickly come off as unsolicited criticism of their parenting style, and nobody likes that. You could try broaching the subject with your sibling the next time you see him or her in person, maybe gently highlight how you’d noticed screen time seems to agitate the kids, and feel the parents out then — If they are immediately defensive, then drop it. If they admit that they don’t love the aftermath of letting the kids have screen time but have no choice but to use it to preserve everyone’s sanity, then you can start a conversation about potential solutions. Better still if you can volunteer your time with them — find out what the kids are into that you can do together, remotely. For one of my nephews, he was just so starved for attention that he just needed someone to listen to him, and he adored my older sister (who was living overseas then and kept in touch via Skype etc) and she would chat online with him patiently while he yakked her ear off for hours about Minecraft, Roblox, etc. In my case, propinquity ultimately worked — because I was around so much, as they got older my nephews started coming to me for advice on the most random stuff when their parents weren’t around. Now they’re all grown up and in their 20s, and I’m happy to say we can have actual conversations about their lives. They even confide stuff in me as the “cool” younger aunt — it helps that I’m closer to their ages than their parents — and so i get the goss on girls, their uni lives and friends, and so on. Some of the boys are chattier than the others but overall, I’m honestly thrilled to have this warm rapport with them. I think they’re also secretly relieved to have an actual honest to goodness adult from their parents’ generation that they can talk to, judgement-free, and who can respect and keep their confidences, even from their parents. (Here I determined that discretion was the better part of valour — if the secret doesn’t put anyone in immediate or potential danger, then I feel it’s ok for their parents not to know every last detail about their boys’ lives.) That way they know they can trust you and they’ll continue to come to you.

      In a nutshell, give it some time and with a bit of effort, I think you *can* speak up in a way that won’t be rejected out of hand. Good luck!

    • TC says...

      Before I had my son, I was very close to my niece and there were a LOT of things about her parenting I didn’t agree with, so I understand the frustration. My advice – don’t say anything! You have to accept that it’s not your place no matter how much you love them and it’s not worth damaging your relationship with their parents to make a point about your values.

  98. Amanda G says...

    That is so neat to see the “real time” difference in Anton ON video games and Anton OFF video games.
    So I thought this post was going in another direction…I am a 3rd grade teacher doing entirely online distance teaching and every ounce of my being DETESTS how much my “kids”(students) are on their devices. Screen time is almost 6 hours a day!! After rolling out the curriculum this first quarter of the year, I just don’t agree with how much time they have to be connected(the early childhood education teacher in me is horrfied). But here’s the thing, this distance learning isn’t fluff and review work like this spring. Like they actually HAVE to learn new 3rd grade standards. Ugh…
    Anyways, I’m struggling.

    And my own almost 2 year old is getting “probably more than he should” Mr. Roger’s neighborhood and PBS these days 🤦‍♀️

  99. A says...

    Brutal truth here – I have two girls, 14 and 16, and it has been an ongoing discussion/tug-of-war with screen time. Their dad and I are balancing their desire to stay connected with friends while being home all day (one to two hours of chatting via FaceTime or Instagram messenger in the evening) and wanting them to stay on top of their school work during the day, while also allowing them to have access to the math app that helps them on their phones, etc. Our girls are both very social and this time has been an emotional one in our home. In the evenings, I actually love to hear the laughter coming from their rooms while they connect with friends (via Facetime/Instagram chat) that they miss and love. Two limits we keep to: only one social media app allowed (Instagram only, no Tik Tok, no snapchat) and our internet data turns off at 10pm, so no online activity post 10. We are just doing our best to walk the tightrope of mental health (too much screen time/COVID isolation) all the way round over here.

    • Gena says...

      I so relate with this. We also have a 16 yo (boy) and 14 yo (girl), plus an 11 yo girl, and screen time is a constant conversation (read: heated discussion). After a full day of online school, all they want to do is chill out with friends, but that means it has to be virtual. Discord has been our latest battle, since to me they’re not “real” friends… but if anything makes them angrier, it’s telling them that they’re virtual friends aren’t “real”. :) Anyway, just wanted to say I completely understand where you’re coming from and am also finding it tricky to navigate screens with our older (but not grownup) kiddos during this time of almost complete social isolation.

    • christine says...

      I have a 13yo daughter, and I hear you! They are so restricted phyically these days that they NEED the connection to their friends through their devices. And for homework, she MUST be online connected to her team space on Google for group work and homework hand-ins (they use a lot of Google cloud). I cannot possibly stand over her from the time she comes home at 3:15 until she goes to bed to monitor what is school work and what is “other” (which can be anything from social media use, to watching Friends or Stranger Things on Netflix, to playing games. But I see how quickly things can go south: she can be short with us and not very engaged, and I think this is due to both hormones and screen use. We do shut down the wifi at 9:30pm (Sunday-Thursday) and request she join us for dog walks or other non-screen activities every day, and she dances a few times a week in studio, but it is hard.

  100. Vicki Fantozzi says...

    It is a something that each family has to make choices about and then revisit those choices to see how they are working for each child and for their family.
    I actually research technology use and I think one issue is that we often focus too much in screen TIME rather than focusing on QUALITY What kids do with screens matters – our brains don’t respond to all screens in just one way. My kids (and really all people) react much differently to making a movie with an iPad than playing a videogame, than coding, than watching a TV show, than talking to friends or family on FaceTime- all are screens but not the same quality of interaction. So we think about what the kids are doing with the screen and encourage them to also monitor how they are feeling while using a screen. Creative uses of technology are less likely to cause agitation.

    We also tell them to be bored, built with legos, make art, read, and play outside- but thats not always easy in the pandemic when we are all at home and Im trying to work! Time is much less useful so thinking about quality helps!

  101. Erin says...

    With our kids (age 11, 8, 5), we typically allow screen time from Friday after school until Sunday afternoon. That works really well for us, since it’s easy to enforce (no grey area), keeps the kids acting normal but also gives us time to do stuff, and gives them time to chill and have fun. Our main complication is audiobooks, which technically aren’t screen time but one of our kids in particular will spend HOURS sitting and listening and will go into screen zombie mode. Otherwise, it was a great system. We WILL return to it.

    Virtual school has made this really difficult, since now their school work IS on screens. We haven’t worked out a good system yet, but currently we only allow them to use their school ipads on school days, which limits what they can do and how much it sucks them in. And there’s no screen time after dinner at all. We try to encourage them to get off the screens during scheduled breaks, but with three kids on two different schedules and our own jobs, we’re not very diligent so our oldest is usually still plugged in. We strongly encourage outside time and/or other activities once homework is done, which again for our younger two is easier than with our older.

    The other major COVID-related wrinkle is that my oldest interacts with her friends almost exclusively via Minecraft, so there’s constant pressure to align her screen time with that of her friends. One friend can’t do Sundays, and another gets a certain number of hours each week and usually uses them up before the weekend. Which is all somehow OUR fault. Sigh. So there have been a handful of exceptions made, but for the most part we encourage her to plan ahead with her friends, which I figure is a better life skill anyway.

  102. It’s been tough during the pandemic to keep the kids off electronics – especially during the summer while I was working from home and we were all on lock down. But now that they’re back in school, have a better routine, it’s been easier. They get homework and so by the time they get home, we have dinner and clean up and they get their work done, they’re maybe on their tablets for about an hour or so before bed. The weekends are tougher, but I try to get them outside to play to break up the day (my kids are 10 and 8).

  103. J. says...

    Someone mentioned this in a comment below (was scrolling at lunch and now cannot find it again!), but one thing I like is reframing with “how about this instead?”

    What specific elements of video games does Anton seem to particularly love, and where could some of those things be recreated in other activities?

    If he seems to love the discovery of a “new world” and exploring, maybe you could try books/activities about outer space, the ocean, or rich fantasy worlds/lands, or with some structure the help of creating his own (if you duct tape four or eight posterboards together and ask kids to create a GIANT WORLD on a GIANT PAPER, they often will draw/create for much longer — physically bigger boundaries can mean bigger ideas! Also kinda feels like drawing on the floor which WOAH).

    If he seems to love the gamification and scoring points, maybe you could try setting up a points or levels system for another group of activities — even very simple things.

    If he loves WINNING (which is a very fair thing to love!), perhaps you could try setting up various simple challenges that he can race to beat (something I used to do pretty frequently is: I bet you can’t clean up this deck of 52 cards in less than 1 minute — also, *throwing* cards is WOAH)

    If he loves spending the time with Toby because they play together and can talk about the game, maybe there are some elements of that that can be recreated with structure elsewhere (though they seem to have such a wonderful relationship and play together a lot!)

    If he loves the strategy/logic, a company called Think Fun makes a lot of excellent physical board games and toys that help with logic and basics of coding principles/computer science that I really like.

    I’m a big fan of “complete agency within narrowly defined boundaries” (for both kids and adults!), where you give complete freedom to choose something within a limit. Most people feel more comfort, safety, AND freedom when provided with structure like this (I know I do!) (it’s the exact opposite of the feeling when you have 1634 tabs of couches open and you’re like OMG I DON’T KNOW WHY ARE THERE SO MANY OPTIONS HOW COULD THERE EVEN BE THIS MANY COUCHES).

    In any case, you and Alex are wonderful parents. You’re doing a great job! This season of life is temporary, and if your gut says that video games don’t work well for Anton, trust yourself! But also: this is a really hard _____ (year/time of life/decision), so be gentle with yourself too :).

  104. Darby says...

    My son is 17 now and I think he has developed a healthy attitude and balance so far (he recently deleted Tiktok from his phone because he felt like it was taking too much of his time and attention). It has been a long hard road though to get to this point. I think he spent about 60-70% of the year he was 13 grounded from his phone. We noticed the same thing… it made a huge difference for his mood/ temperament. We talked about it a lot that year and he started to notice the difference himself, especially when the time away from his phone stretched to 2, 3, 4 weeks. Now, as an older teenager, he is so responsible and so thoughtful about his screen time because he knows the negative impact it can have on things like sleep. We did negotiate two nights a week “unlimited” (Friday and Saturday) where he can be up late playing video games with his buddies but weeknights he has to be off by 9:00. My daughter (13) doesn’t seem to struggle the way he did. Usually I just have to say something like “it seems like you have been on your phone a lot today. What can you do instead to keep yourself busy and healthy?” We still have the rule for both of our kids- no phones in their bedrooms at night. They are both at school in person right now (not remote learning) so that helps a lot. If they have things to keep them busy, they are less drawn to their screens. It was much harder when things were shut down- we were all on our screens too much.

  105. Natalie says...

    Last month, my son had a complete meltdown when I told him his kindle time was over. Like when completely ballistic. Unbeknownst to him, my husband smashed the kindle because he was fed up with attitudes around it. It was the first thing my son thought of when he woke up in the morning.

    I can say after a month of not having it, meltdowns have become much less. This is not to say that we will never let my son get video games again but we told him he will need to prove to us he is responsible enough to handle.

    I agree that not every kid is the same when it comes to video games, but in our house it has become banned for the foreseeable future . We are a lot better without them.

  106. Kirsten says...

    I’ve found that my three year old is in general very overstimulated but screen time and it tends to result in tantrums in the hours following TV. For awhile when I was pregnant with my second, we fell into a show in the afternoon pattern, but in the end dealing with her anger about turning it off just wasn’t worth the relax time for me. Now she gets to watch two Daniel Tiger shows on Sunday, and sometimes we do a big family movie night with popcorn and a night walk which always feels super special to her. I’m sure things will evolve as she gets bigger, but for now veeerrry limited screen time works for us.

  107. Bonnie says...

    With four boys home (the older three in virtual school and the four year old just “around”), I have sort of given up on screen time limits. They have to be on the computer all day for school. In order for my husband and I to get anything done working from home, the youngest watches WAY too much TV. I’m sort of hoping that after Covid is over, we can try something like multiple months of no screen time…with the idea that it will somehow “cleanse” their brains. I’m sure this won’t happen, but I like the idea of it. We have not given in to the Nintendo Switch that the older two want, and since my 12 year old wanted a smart phone, but got a flip phone, he does not use it at all, which I am perfectly happy about. Since they need to be online for school, I generally tell them no screens after dinner or on the weekend, or they’ll be watching these guys on youtube who post videos of themselves playing Minecraft all day–I have reminded them many times “that is NOT a real career!”

    • Hayley B says...

      I can’t stand those videos of guys endlessly blathering on about games either, but it’s what all the kids nowadays are into. Like, REALLY into. To Gen Z, it’s the same as us watching tennis matches, or basketball games, or NFL games. Pioneers like PewDiePie and Ninja Blevins who livestream or post videos of themselves playing video games for hours make *serious* bank (I’m talking millions of dollars a year from multiple endorsement deals) as the audience is HUGE and devoted and hyper engaged and young — exactly what advertisers’ dreams are made of. A recent Variety report says gamers are poised to take over the Kardashians as the new influencers/marketing stars, and they’re projected to start branching out into content creation deals with mainstream entertainment media. All the kids want to emulate them or be them, as the nascent e-sports industry is a multi billion dollar industry with staggering growth potential. So it’s absolutely a possible career path, BUT with the caveat that it is getting increasingly harder to amass the kind of following that would get you noticed by advertisers and net a steady full-time income. As it was with YouTube, game-streaming platforms like Twitch and Facebook Gaming (Mixer already shut down) are fast filling up with plenty of guys and gals who livestream or post videos of themselves playing every game you can think of for hours each day, and it’s more challenging now to distinguish yourself from the thousands of other gamers who are also streaming out there and grab enough eyeballs to justify doing it as a career. For each established gamer like Ninja or PewDiePie, there are hundreds of thousands more hustling away trying to get their big break/a shot at the big time.

    • Natalie says...

      This made me laugh!

      My son loved this as well! I make him turn it off. He says he wants to be a you tuber like these guys when he gets bigger. I told him if he does he will start paying rent !!

  108. Emily says...

    My 13-year-old son doesn’t play video games. What began as my own resistance to having a gaming system in my home (I have, after all, become my mother in my middle age…) grew into a source of pride for him. You know what he has done during quarantine? He has become an incredible skate boarder. He spends hours upon hours practicing.

    He is the only boy his age I know who doesn’t play video games. I’m a frequent bystander in conversations with friends who have boys his age. The conversations run the gamut-from gratitude that video games provide cooped up teens with some socialization via microphones and headsets to angst over the arguments that stem from placing limits on gaming. I’ve never for one second doubted that I made the right decision for my home and my child when I decided no video games. In fact, people in my circle with younger children often ask me for parenting advice and how I keep my child active, talking with adults, exercising, going on walks, etc. And I always say, It’s simple! No video games.

    He does have a phone and he has limitations with that. It shuts off at a certain time and he is only allowed an hour on instagram (where a lot of his skateboarding skills are learned) and tik tok. I believe the phone gives teens some freedoms that would be tough to come by in this day and age without them. I do have to regularly give a reminder that we don’t bring phones in the car or to the dinner table and I am subjected to the occasional eye roll regarding that. But I’ve found it’s quite easy to limit what one does on a phone-both via iPhone’s parental controls and those of my wireless provider plus it’s super easy to shut the phone down with a push of a button on mine. My tolerance for reminders about phone behaviors is low so I can’t imagine trying to help my child learn boundaries around that technology and gaming.

  109. We have been excessively strict with our five year old and have not allowed screen time except long car rides, hair cuts (his Dad cuts his hair) or Friday night movie nights. This has made screen time an event and no a right. It feels good for our family and instead our son does 45 minutes of quiet time in his room each day which has produced quite the little bookworm. He loves to cook and bake and do crafts too. I have found there is plenty of stuff to do other than t.v.

  110. Nancy says...

    As a kid, my mom didn’t allow any of my five siblings play video games or watch more than an hour of TV a week. I think the video game ban affected my brother the most–but these days he is a very formidable visual artist. I am so proud of him for channeling his energy (and aggression) into his art. My current husband and most recent ex-boyfriend grew up with video games, and consider it a huge part of their identity. For both, it is a coping mechanism and a way to channel anger, sadness, and aggression, though I can say that reading my blogs and reading my books do the same thing for me, so I get off my high horse about it when I’m feeling reasonable. With regards to TV time, I appreciate a recent comment supporting my fellow BIPOC community. Sometimes I just can’t do it all, and it kills me, because he is the person I want to be the most for. I feel like my 2 year old watches too much TV. I think it’s less about him and more about me–I try my best to model what I want to see. I don’t look at my phone on the weekends, keep my daily screen time under an hour on my phone, and wear a watch everywhere so I don’t make excuses. These moments when I’m unplugged is pure bliss, and I love experiencing my son’s radiant joys in a time of crisis, far away from my family and friends trying to raise my son in a place that I feel could bring new opportunities for him and his future. I will probably try to enforce a violent game video game ban (though I may eat my words later), but will have to hash it out with my husband. That being said, there is a gorgeous world of story based games and new ways that stories are being told that have nonbinary characters, and expand empathy and imagination that I’m fascinated by!

  111. Alez says...

    We have a 5 year old and an almost 2 year old. The younger one could care less about screens – tv or iPad. even when I’ve desperately tried to distract him with a tv show for 20 minutes over the last couple of months so I could take a work call or a shower. On one hand it’s fantastic that he’s not into it. On the other, I wish I could just plop him in front of Sesame Street sometimes.
    My 5 year old is the opposite. We have to limit her to 1 hour a day of iPad or TV. And We had to remove YouTube from our iPad because she was watching those “toy videos” and then she constantly whines about all the toys she wanted and needed. “I have no new toys! I need new toys!” Like hell you do kid! So yea, now she gets 1 hour a day + movie night each week with mom and dad. But I will say, there were a handful of days during the 6 months of serious lockdown where we threw our hands up and she was on that iPad for like 6 hours.

    And yes, I notice a huge difference in her overall patience, mood, behavior On days where she has little or no screen time vs. days where she has more.

  112. Betsy says...

    I have three boys, 16, 14, 5 and their ages alone make screen time and even device ownership a challenge. However, it is temperament more than anything. YouTube, video games, and anything of that nature affects one of my kids so intensely, and always has, so I have tried to regulate it for him. However, the challenge is he then thinks he has a lesser personality! We often use screen time as the motivator and I don’t want to because so many things are involved with it now, school, socializing, and connection. I have read books, listened to speakers, and know it affects my kids immensely and in different ways and still no answers!

  113. Meghan says...

    The recognition that one size does not fit all is really important with this issue. I’m not a parent, but I am a secondary (high) school teacher, so I see kids playing (online) games all day long. What might be hard to recognize if you didn’t grow up playing online games is how integrated they are in a teenager’s social life. Sometimes this isn’t ideal, but for some kids it’s an absolute lifesaver. Outside my classroom we have a funny little dead-end hallway that we’ve dubbed The Island of Misfit Toys, because every year (pre-COVID) it’s filled with kids who don’t have friends. Every year, without fail, these kids end up forming their own little tribe and it all happens through gaming. They sit in total silence, completely engrossed in their phones, but they’re actually talking to each other! What would be terrifying to do in person becomes possible through the filter of technology.

    • beth says...

      There is SO much that goes on through teen gaming. One thing that I think is cool is my son and his cousin who have lived their whole lives in separate states have suddenly become much closer (as in talking to each other almost every day) because they play the same game online.

  114. Ella says...

    Joanna, my Dad, a child psychologist recommended I listen to this interview by researcher David Gillespie:
    https://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/conversations/david-gillespie-2019/10986686
    In the interview, Gillespie discusses the different addiction patterns for boys and girls and what screen time is doing to the ways young minds develop as well as what screen time does to behaviour in kids. It has given me ample (ongoing) food for thought as I’ve sought to navigate screen time and parenting. If you have the time, I highly, highly recommend the listen.

  115. K says...

    I was definitely noticing a big difference with our kindergartner and screen time turning into WAY too much during these past few months. As a teacher also on a screen all day (gahh) I didn’t have a lot of choices to keep him from interrupting – bored with toys, books, etc. Our shared tiny yard was no option for unfettered running around. The kicker was that we were living 2 blocks from the beach in a community that was filled with anti-maskers, so our normal outdoor stuff – fishing, boogie boarding, sandcastles – was truncated due to being surrounded by hordes of people literally ignoring the pandemic. Not everyone has this luxury, but we made a drastic decision to move out of state to a yurt on a mini farm, and he has chickens and cats to chase and now we are only doing the occasional Netflix show. Granted, we were quite privileged to do this – we blew a big chunk of unemployment money to go and people thought we were nuts. For anyone without outdoor space during these tough times, screen time is a really hard thing to shake. :(

  116. K says...

    My parents gave my brother and I unlimited screen time once we were around 8, that said, there were very high standards put on us about grades and extra-curricular activities. Looking back, we both had periods of time where we definitely watched way to much tv, but we also went through periods where we didn’t as much — now as an adult, I watch very little. I did see a movie (can’t remember what it was called — don’t think it was very good) where the father (a novelist) paid his children an allowance for writing each day (journal or creative). I think this is amazing and if I ever have children I would do this. I think that maybe giving incentives to do non-screen time activities could be an interesting way to counter unlimited screen time.

  117. Kara says...

    During the weekdays we let our 6 year old watch a 30 min. show in the morning, while we are making coffee, showering, etc. Now that he is ALSO on a tablet all day long for school, I have mixed feelings about starting the day with screens and then continuing on them all day long, but a morning show seems to help him transition into the day in a relaxed way. He often asks me to sit and watch with him, so watching 30 minutes of cartoons while drinking coffee has become part of my morning routine as well. And I agree, it’s quite relaxing! We also have a video game system (my old Super Nintendo from when I was a kid) and we play one hour of video games together on the weekend. I know eventually he will want more video game time and we don’t really have a plan for when that happens, but for now he accepts that it is just a Sunday morning activity. I guess all this is to say we have never really figured out an official parenting stance on screens and video games, we just sort of go with what seems to be working at the time and we will tweak as we go.