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. Lucy W says...

    We stopped watching TV when we moved a month ago, mostly because we weren’t sure where to set up the TV and so just never put it up. It’s been bliss! We now have 1-2 spare hours in the evening to go for walks, play board games, read – it’s felt incredibly luxurious and relaxing. I’ve been sleeping better, and I never realized until we did this how I felt weirdly “obligated” to watch TV even if I didn’t want to because that’s just what we did. No pressure to anyone else – this is such a stressful time, and if you want to watch TV you should watch TV! – but if you’ve been thinking of trying a week or two without it consider this an invitation.

    • Erin says...

      In February, my husband and I stopped watching tv or using screens after the kids went to bed, for the main purpose of easing my husband’s insomnia.

      It helped his insomnia, but we also really enjoyed rediscovering that time for other things. More books (with kindle e-readers and amber lights)! More sex! Earlier bedtimes! It hasn’t been hard to stay off the tv, actually. We have not been horribly tempted.

      Since our kids are still small, that means we essentially don’t watch shows and movies intended for adult audiences. Occasionally one of us will take some lazy time to watch tv in bed during a weekend afternoon, but we really just watch the occasional movie or show with the kids. So we are way behind on pop culture, but I guess we’re okay with that.

    • Susan Magnolia says...

      We love night walks and playing games after dinner too! It’s so much more fun. 😀

    • b says...

      Oh my gosh! I love this. My tv is on its last legs and I’ve already decided I’m not replacing it (at least not right away; that could change when/if I ever end up living alone). I have AppleTV on my iPad, but I generally just use that for movies. When I was a kid, I hated television. I much preferred to read.

    • Alexa says...

      “an invitation” ~ what a beautiful, encouraging thing to say!

  2. LTaylor says...

    My daughter is 6 y.o., non-verbal, and on the severe side on the spectrum, we found that watching youtube music videos soothes her and also gives us a much needed break. She is addicted to it so we use it as a positive reinforcement for behavioral therapy. She has learned to be sweeter, kiss us often, use her charming smiles, do school work, participate in Zoom class, take walks, sit for family dinner, and eat variety of food (quinoa, couscous, bone broth, and all fruits and vegetables) so she can get more screen time instead of biting and throwing tantrums. I think as a parent, we do what we need to do to take care of ourselves, the kids will be okay. My parents weren’t home most of the day growing up so my sisters and I had unlimited screen time. I want to think I turned out okay, haven’t watched much shows or movies the past 15 years.

    • Annie K. says...

      I appreciate this so much, for you sharing your experience with your daughter and also for the reminder that many of us watched a lot of TV and are not damaged or hindered because of it. I think our generation of parents could take a lesson from our own childhoods, in which we were not irrevocably harmed by super crappy TV, and just allow ourselves the grace to do whatever the f works for our families in the moment.

    • b says...

      Seems like a really great use of YouTube videos to me! Everybody has such different family situations, it really is up to us parents to decide what works for our own individual families.

    • anon says...

      My daughter is older (teens) and also on the spectrum. I commented earlier about how a device and certain games and apps actually helped her. Have you seen They Might Be Giants’ Here Comes the 123s, Here Comes the ABCs, and Here Comes Science? Also Ruby’s Studio? They’re considered older videos now (but still lovely), my daughter loved them when she was young (5-8).

  3. Stephanie says...

    We try to balance out how we spend our free time by framing activities as strong fun or weak fun. There’s nothing wrong with either type of fun–they’re both fun–but if we spend more time doing things that engage our body, brain or emotions, then we’ll grow stronger in those areas. If we spend more time doing things that are passive, then we might become weaker than we’d like.

    The great thing about this approach is that we all have different views (as families and individuals) on where we’d like to land on the scale, as well as what strength and weakness looks like to us.

    In our home (with two boys, 7 and 4) this looks like 1 or 1.5 hours of TV each day. Of course some days there will be no TV at all and other days there’s more. For the most part, I let them choose what to watch from a short list of approved shows and they’re happy with this.

    Until about 6 months, they didn’t really understand the appeal of video games. But my oldest is now aware. He hasn’t asked to play them himself, but asked if I knew what a Nintendo Switch is and said his buddies talk about that a lot. We’re planning to hold off as long as possible. Wish us luck. Ha!

    But gosh, as soon as you think you’re doing good with screen time, you read about other parents who allow no screen time on weekdays and our plan starts to seem like too much. Such a tricky topic!

    • Kelly says...

      This doesn’t have to do with screen time limits but your mention of Nintendo reminded me of a short story my mom wrote about my brother when we were in high school. The gist of the story was that my brother wanted a Nintendo SO BADLY and my mom told him that if he read 100 books over the summer she would buy him a Nintendo. He read his 100 bucks and got the Nintendo. He played video games throughout his childhood and into his teens, but less and less so as he got older. At the time my mom wrote the story, when my brother was in high school, she did not have a video-gamer, she had an AVID reader.

    • Caitlin says...

      LOVE framing things as weak or strong activities.

    • Stephanie says...

      Kelly that’s the coolest story!

  4. annie says...

    Joanna, I love the honesty of this post. What I thought was once working (lots of TV in the afternoons – mostly because we were all tired) has now been replaced with a play time that has become a huge game-changer in my daughters’ relationship with one another. There is a five year gap between them, so I always assumed they wouldn’t actually play well together, and definitely not for longer stretches if time. But now that we are home more (ahem: all the time) we enforced a “play with your sister” hour in that afternoon that has created much more sister harmony than we could have ever imagined. At the beginning, all they did was fight, but we noticed they eventually learned how to play together by figuring out how to solve their own arguments (also an expectation we gave them). In our pre-Covid life we’d let them watch TV in the afternoons without much time to play together. It’s neat that what started out as a hope to curb TV by enforcing this time to spend together, they’ve actually grown so close that when they do watch TV, they actually are often doing so holding hands.

    • Molly says...

      Reading about your “play with your sister hour” just made me smile! My sister and I are almost 6 years apart and we definitely played together growing up in our own way and we are the best of friends now at 30 (me) and 24 (her).

  5. Jenny says...

    I totally get why parents (often moms) need a break to spend a few uninterrupted minutes doing anything during this time. Big solutions, like real public investment in childcare, paid maternity and paternity leave, and equal pay for moms (especially Black, Indigenous, and Latinx moms) is the only real way out of this pandemic-amplified work situation that punishes moms. In the meantime, godspeed with Paw Patrol because these systems are blaming you and trying to make you do homemade play dough instead of reform (No shade to homemade play dough, or moms who invest their time keeping kids off screens)

    • Sage says...

      PREACH, Jenny.

    • a says...

      100% x100.

    • E says...

      Nodding my head

    • Lin says...

      Here, here Jenny!

    • Abbey says...

      This!

    • Nicole says...

      Yes x 100000000!!!

  6. Kim says...

    So I’m assuming you are not doing virtual learning? Because my first grader is on his school iPad for hours everyday. And we’re in a more flexible program with much less love zooms than most.

    I was one of the “over my dead body” about screen time and sugar when I was pregnant.

    But then life happens and you adjust. I try to limit both some days, we spend as much time outside as possible. That’s probably not as easy in the city, I realize. We do the best we can.

    So curious as to what he could have done to earn that punishment! Color me intrigued!

    • Kim says...

      Ahem, LIVE zooms. LOL.

  7. R says...

    What are people’s thoughts on Minecraft for a 7-yo boy? He plays with it on a tablet and is obsessed. He’s been struggling with distance learning (very active, extroverted child) so I’ve been using it as a reward against which he has to earn “points” for doing school tasks. I know this isn’t ideal but it’s working generally speaking. I don’t like the struggles we sometimes have when his time is up or the vocabulary around killing, pickaxes, etc. Part of me realizes that little ones will naturally pick up these terms in playing games, and I’ve been told by many that Minecraft is educational. What are people’s thoughts?

    • I think the key is to make it a bonding experience. Ask him what he’s doing, why he’s doing that. I was scared about the same things too, but I can tell by watching him talk about it with peers, that it’s a natural enthousiasme for building his own world, making his own decisions. Searching for boundaries within a game without real consequences can be really helpful.

    • Kiana says...

      My son’s entire second grade class plays minecraft. I’ve played before too, but didn’t find it very interesting. No idea why kids are so obsessed with it. My son doesn’t play any video games or computer games and doesn’t watch much TV but he still talks a lot about weapons, invasion, conquering, etc. He got it from his graphic novels and Star wars. Kids, especially little boys, will find their way to these violent things on their own. I think, as parents, our only intervention should be if their attachment is extreme or it’s changing their behavior/mood. You’re the best judge of that.

    • Can he play with a friend? My 8 year old goes on MC with a friend (via their tablet) and it’s a way for them to connect and play together

      I don’t think screen time rules for any family matters, tbh. Do what works for you. If Anton is acting out from video games, stop them. If tv helps, keep it. Your post says that you like how no video games has helped Anton. I think that’s your answer. For me, I love tv but also find that video games makes me feel more stressed. Good luck!

    • Susan Magnolia says...

      I like that my child is safe to explore in an environment where she can creatively manipulate the space. In the spring she played on a MineTest server and it was exciting for her during the early months of the pandemic. She built all kinds of neat things like a house and a train station. It’s not a regular thing she plays but I get the appeal. She is a city kid in a pandemic, MineTest was amazing.

    • Kim says...

      I say go for it if it’s working for you. I have a six year old who has friends who love Minecraft.

    • Sarah says...

      My boys (6 and 9) LOVE Minecraft! I agree some of the killing talk bothers me but I tell myself it’s online legos. It’s a survival game. They’re building shelters, getting food etc. modern day Oregon trail. At least that’s how I’m reconciling it.

    • beth says...

      One thing I can remember appreciating about Minecraft when my son was of the age that he played it is that a lot of time was spent building things, rather than trying to race a clock to take out enemies, which seemed to be the objective of many other games. As a librarian I see children come in all of the time looking for books about Minecraft and basically anything that gets kids to read can’t be too bad! Finally, I think these weird times have to be acknowledged, and doing your best is sometimes all you can do!

    • C says...

      My now 15 yr old played for a few years and loved making things. We allowed peaceful mode only. The only thing I would change is having one of us do it with him. He has told me since that he wanted us to create with him.

    • Katia says...

      This month we chose to put our TV away (literally in a box in our garage) as a detox of sorts while we figure out new guidelines for our family. Things had gotten out of hand since the pandemic and my first few exhausting months of homeschooling. I’m talking 3 hours of Jessie, Bunk’d etc.
      My kids were not excited to read or play outdoors and I was becoming aware of how I used the TV as a babysitter.
      My sister came to visit me and I asked her what advice she would give me as a parent and she said she thought my kids were emotionally stressed beyond their years (7 and 9 ) and really thought it stemmed from these Disney shows they had been binging. It was a huge blind spot but I completely agreed with her point and saw that we needed to reevaluate!
      So, its been about 4 weeks and it’s been rough some days but overall the kids are much more creative, improving in reading and most of all I am seeing changes in behavior. I’m not sure what our reintroduction to TV will look like, if ever!
      I HAVE let them play Minecraft on our tablet for 30 minutes a day if they have finished all their school work, chores etc.
      It has been a great reward system and they enjoy building, creating and discovering new worlds. It seems appropriate from what I have heard and what i’ve watched them do.
      The TV shows seem to affect my kids more negatively than playing games
      on the tablet.
      What a fascinating topic of discussion!!!! A lot to consider.

    • Elisabeth says...

      Our five year old has just started playing with her cousins and grandfather (my dad) and loves it! We count it toward screen time and they use a private family server. My favorite part, though, is they will conference call and chat while they adventure together.

    • CT says...

      My kids (7 and 9) play minecraft together. I have mixed feelings but, like many, we have massively relaxed our screen rules. My husband pointed out that listening to them and imagining they are playing Lego together we be happy to leave them for hours. They are interacting, laughing, arguing etc. But I worry about my 7 year old who is always asking for his next hit.

  8. Kelly says...

    Screen time on the weekends only. They don’t realize really ask for it because they are happy to be home and play outside or with their other toys (my boys are in person for school). And when they do have them on the weekend it makes for a quiet more or when getting something done for us parents.

  9. Jules says...

    We have 4 kids (7, 5, 3, & 1) and follow the same rule I had to as a kid: no TV during the week (1 yr old gets none). Fridays are pizza movie night. Before Covid we’d have my brother & his family over for PMN! It was a blast. I’d say it’s about 1.5-2 hours total on weekends. Once homework starts to really be a thing, it’ll be TV on Friday & Saturday only.

    We don’t have any iPads or devices they use except for their school computers (7 & 5) that are only used during school hours. Not sure what our rule will be but we’re going to hold of as long as humanly possible for personal devices. We know people who work with middle/high schoolers & hear horror stories about the issues they have. Kids are doing the dumb stuff some kids do but now it’s getting recorded & sent around the school. Yikes.

    My husband & I watch TV at night but only after the kids are in bed. It truly drives me nuts to have it on during the day. Looks like I am turning into my mother (I don’t mind, she’s awesome).

  10. Joni S says...

    I have 3 grown kids ( ages 21, 20 and 20) now who grew up with unlimited screen time starting around the ages of 6. The only reason they had unlimited time is because their dad and I didn’t agree on a limit, and so enforcing one was not possible. While I regret that they had unlimited access, I would not say any of them have aggression issues, or the inability to discuss and resolve issues which might be attributed to playing video games, and they had access to all the FPS games. All 3 kids are serious gamers then and now, and consider it a stress reliever. My regret really centers more on the access multi-player games gave adults-posing-as-kids to my own kids. That issue seemed to pop up around 5th or 6th grade for my kids, which is an age when kids unknowingly might try to keep adults in the dark. Even if parents decide video games are not harmful for their own kids, I would caution other parents to keep in mind how multi-player games work, and what that exposes kids to. It might be possible to control all of that as parents, especially if both agree on how to manage it.

    • Susan says...

      This is my current situation with my 7 year old daughter. My husband is very pro tv and video games, in some part due to his own childhood restrictions. Sometimes I wonder if I wasn’t around if my kid would be in front of a screen all day every day. It’s been a struggle, but we’ve come to some reasonable compromises (no screen time till chores and homework are done, and none ever in the morning). There’s still a whole lot more screen time than I’d like, especially on the weekends. At some point though, I can only argue about it so much and give in. It’s only harder now in Covid times. The mom guilt is real!

    • Anne says...

      Your honesty is really refreshing.

    • beth says...

      This a really great point. I grew up in a no video games household (back when that meant Atari) and just have zero interest in these kind of games, but my husband loved video games as a kid, and still pretty much loves them now. I wanted to hold out giving my son access for as long as possible but my mother-in-law surprised my son (and me!) with a GameBoy when he was 5, and that pretty much sealed the deal. But it was really the middle school years that I found the most worrisome for all the reasons you mentioned, and I’m grateful my husband always insisted playing with my son, or watching while he played.

  11. Byrdie says...

    We “lost” our IPad for this exact reason. It became this obsession and even if we were playing a family game together, I could tell he couldn’t wait to get back to playing on the device. We did better at limiting screen time early on with our first child, who is 10 now, and I can tell a major difference between our two. My son, 7yo, cannot regulate himself as well. He could play all day, while my daughter plays for a bit and then moves on to real toys herself. We really have pulled back for him because the research is not great on the impacts on their executive functioning, attention, and ability to focus. We see big differences in all of these when we take away devices.

  12. Merideth says...

    I totally relate to this. My Two older kids 16 and 14 aren’t affected by video games, but they change my 10 year old a lot!

    One practical thing we do is have a phone docking station in our kitchen. Every family member that has a phone has to put it in the dock so no one is tempted to be mindlessly on their phone and everyone can be present.

    I just finished reading the book Reset Your Child’s Brain by Victoria L. Dunkley MD.
    I couldn’t believe the research on video games and the effect they have on the brain, especially a developing brain. The author did make a distinction in her research that watching TV and Movies doesn’t have the same negative effects on the brain as playing video games.

    • Emma says...

      Does the research distinguish between types of video games or specify which kinds have negative effects? While some games are just bright flashing colors and mindless clicking, there are so many video games with compelling plotlines and rich environments, that require a lot of puzzle-solving, trial-and-error, a.practice, nd persistence in order to progress (any Legend of Zelda game, Undertale, Ni no Kuni). I am extremely skeptical that *all* video games would be considered negative. That just feels like way too much of a blanket generalization.

  13. Heather Hosac says...

    When my 2 boys were at home I was always throwing away our Xbox. I can tell when it starts being too much and I throw it away. The first time the boys were shocked. But then they were so much more fun to be with, and happier. They would hang with friends more and get bored and play the piano or guitar. Eventually I would buy another one and because they had been without one for a long time it was just fun and not a big deal. Eventually it would start to be too much and I would throw it away again. Best money I ever spent.

    • Tis says...

      Don’t you own a closet with a high shelf?!?!?!? lol

    • Anne says...

      Do you actually throw it away?!? Why not stash it on a shelf out of sight?!

  14. Ari says...

    My 2yo son seems to self-regulate well. *I* am the one who needs screen time limits. I am not even on the socials and it’s out of control!!

    • Louisa says...

      Me, too, Ari! My 6-year-old could take it or leave it, I am not on fb/ insta/ twitter (etc) but I still need limits!

  15. A says...

    I have a very nearly 7 year old and four year old. So far we don’t have video games but we are probably a bit too relaxed about TV at times, this probably coincided with covid and lockdown. Since we started back to school we have majorly cut back though and are trying to get outside more in the evenings, especially as light will soon be fading and we live in the country, no street lighting! No telly on Mondays or Wednesday’s coz we get home a little later. It was a bit of a struggle with my older one at the start but I’ve noticed now that if I don’t turn on the telly on Tuesdays or Thursdays, sometimes they won’t ask themselves! It’s as if Monday and Wednesday have broken the habit and they are enjoying finding other things to fill their time. Like others I do wonder how long I will get away without having a games console. I remember longing for super Mario as a kid but my mom never gave in. I don’t want that experience for my kids, but I’d like to hold out until my youngest is a bit older at least. I think for me personally middle childhood is early enough.

  16. Kate says...

    I am only part way through the comments and so eager to read more –especially since Anton sounds a lot like my own 7-year old son in this department! At the start of the pandemic, I felt such crushing guilt about how much screen time my boys were taking in and came up with various systems/charts/contacts/etc., but couldn’t never hit upon a method that worked for us and enforcement was making me miserable. So now the rules around screen use are so much more relaxed at our house: school work needs to be finished, and meals are to be enjoyed screen-free as a family. And then, I try to be sure that we are doing some fun things together away from the screens each day, like a simple walk to our town’s market for treat, playing with legos, or baking. I leave time at the end of the day to have a nice, longish bed time routine with each boy –reading and talking one-to-one without distraction.
    We are also super lucky to live somewhere with very low COVID numbers (fingers crossed) so we have some actives available again and have even been able to venture back to the library to freshen up our reading material. It’s not perfect and I am not proud of how much “device time” takes place, but, by shifting my focus to the overall vibe of our home and prioritizing the little things we can do together each day, we all seem to be happier.

  17. Susan says...

    This discussion is fascinating. Thanks, Jo, for giving us a thoughtful space to talk about it. I have kids, but they are quite young so we don’t have a set rule on screen time. I think about my own experience growing up though. My brother and I didn’t have any rules about screen time at all. My mom was a single mom working multiple jobs and going to school, so she didn’t have the luxury of brain space to worry about stuff like that. As a result, sometimes we watched a truly obscene amount of TV (think many hours at a time), played outside until it got dark, read whatever we wanted, and ate whatever we wanted that was in the house. There was a definite downside to this – we were on our own so much. But everything is a trade off. There was such a great upside too. We both grew up resilient and able to make our own decisions. Neither of us have any hang-ups about food or weight because we always just ate what we wanted and stopped when we wanted. There was usually no one there to tell us we had to eat anything at any time. We both paid our own way (with scholarships, grants, and loans) through college and beyond and both own businesses today. When confronted with hardships when we were young adults, we knew how to figure out solutions because we’d always been given the space to do so.

    There isn’t a right or wrong way to raise kids, I firmly believe that. But every decision we make has an upside and a downside. When you put limits on screen time, you may give them structure and teach them that there are rules and how to follow them. These may be great. But you may make it forbidden (and thus, more attractive) and take away an opportunity for them to self-regulate.

    • Sage says...

      I love this comment, Susan. Thanks for sharing about your own childhood. Maybe it sounds simple but you saying that there is no right/wrong way, but there are upsides/downsides to EVERY decision… I dunno, I feel like that just turned a light on in my brain. So true.

    • Carrington says...

      This resonates with me. I grew up so similar to you and now I feel I am that parent that is over obsessing about screens and vegetables! I would much rather someone learn to self-regulate and not make something forbidden and attractive!

    • beth says...

      I love this comment!

    • neha says...

      Love this!!

  18. Kirsten Giese Halloran says...

    I have two boys, ages 13 and 15, and I have never allowed video games. They only recently got cell phones and the 15-year-old got Instagram when the pandemic started. I know a lot of the boys socialize on video games, but I just never felt like it was a good idea. I offered an X box to my 13-year-old when lockdown started, but he’s gone so long without it that he said “No, thanks. Not interested.” I don’t know if he’s left out without them, but I will tell you this: My kids are super creative and never bored. They play piano all the time and both are shockingly good at it. My goal was to keep them off tech as long as possible–all out the window now–but it worked until March :) And the piano music in our house is incredible.

    • Shari says...

      I too have a similar experience to this. We have 3 boys aged 13,10,8. We have never done gaming at all , my 13 year old doesn’t have a smart ph, no social media.
      I would have thought that they would be pressuring us to have more screen time , not least to fit in with peers and I was prepared for that and was willing to negotiate.
      However, this has not happened. They have had time to develop proper hobbies and are more satisfied somehow with those.
      I would encourage others to be confident enough to be fairly screen free. It has been far less of a deal than I would have thought.

    • Amber says...

      To Kirsten & Shari (and a lot of the commenters in this post tbh), I think its great/fine how you’ve chosen to limit gaming for your children/family, and while there may be research about the effects on mood for developing brains etc, I think there’s really a lot of overall negativity around it in these comments. My main criticism is with the comment “they’ve had time to develop proper hobbies [without access to gaming]”… as if gaming isn’t a proper hobby? Not only can it be a hobby, it can also be educational, and it can pivot into really lucrative career fields. Like all parents with the privilege to, I struggle with how much screen time or gaming time is appropriate, and everyone needs to do what is best for their family, but I challenge this idea that there’s no benefit or value or worth or skill to come from gaming, when in fact, lots of problem solving, STEM, and computer science skills can be developed and honed through gaming. My husband actually taught himself to read as a small child bc he was tired of asking his mom to read him the screen on his Mario game, and I’ve heard from several parents in a mom group I’m in about how video games are really beneficial for late readers. (Note, I’m not a gamer at all and never have been, but my husband is, and I see both sides of the debate). Just food for thought!

  19. Rachel says...

    My husband and I grew up with very little oversight in regards to media but with incredibly high expectations placed on us (academics, athletics, musical accomplishments, community involvement, etc). I think both of us learned to navigate media really well as a result. We both remember periods of watching TV nonstop, and we remember years where we just didn’t have the time. We’re taking the same approach with our three kiddos, and I think it fits our family. They’re expected to bring home grades that reflect growth, to put time into practicing their particular sport, to play at least one instrument, to help with the melange of rescues we seem to have acquired, and to complete their chores. When they’re older, I also expect them to help out in the community. If they still have time at the end of the day, I figure it is their time to enjoy however they choose.

    I do also appreciate the commenters who point out what a privilege it is to have screen time rules. Parenting is not easy, but it certainly is made easier when you have time, a safe neighborhood, access to transportation for activities, access to financial resources for toys, crafts, books, etc,…. As a teacher in a Title I school, I am constantly reminded how easy it has been to be a white, middle class parent in America.

  20. Maria says...

    I highly recommend screenfreeparenting.com. It’s two working parents (psychologists) who have decided to be screen-free with their kids. Lots of ideas for the kids, and researched information for parents to read.

  21. Lauren says...

    We don’t have kids, but my partner and I talk about this a lot. I came from a household where video games were forbidden and talked about as pure evil. He grew up playing and loving many video games, but admits he can go overboard and easily become addicted. Growing up, I felt like I had trouble relating to my peers because I was so clueless about fun things. On the other hand, he wasn’t very social in college because he spent all his free time gaming. He can’t wait to share his favorite games with our future kids, but I want there to be some rules or limits.

    We are two extremes, but I like to believe we both turned out okay :) He’s now a 30-something brilliant doctor and I STILL see his personality change when he’s super into a new game. Sometimes its annoying, but I also know that it’s his love of fantasy worlds, and his love of stories, and his ability to truly take a break from work that are all part of the reason I fell in love with him in the first place.

  22. J says...

    On weekdays, we do cartoons on the tv only (no games, no apps, no scrolling or choosing themselves – we agree on what they’re watching and then the adult sets it up) before bedtime, about 20 minutes for our 3 year old and about an hour for our 6 year old. The rest of the day is screen free. On weekends we allow a little morning cartoon watchin on top of that, before breakfast. Still, sometimes I worry about even that being too much. And I always get extra worried when our six yo asks for video games because his friends from school play at home. I wonder how long we’ll be able to resist. But both of us feel very strongly about minimizing screen time as much and as long as possible.

  23. alice says...

    I have a 4 yr old and a 6 yr old. They watch 45 minute roughly tops on a school days (sometimes none) and a movie on weekend days. Plus an episode or two if it’s raining. Though this past weekend they had none of their choice. This is all tv. We have a projector that they can’t turn on themselves, so we facilitate their watching which is useful. We let them choose but obviously control it. I introduced a couple of dimples games on my iPad during lockdown but they’re not really into it. My eldest will always choose to be outside playing, doing sport, or climbing if he can. My youngest likes gardening and nature. Though the biggest factor is that our flat leads into our garden, and our garden links up to our neighbours gardens. And they’re all enclosed. So my kids are part of a pack of about 10 kids from 3-10 that roam, independently, in a kind of controlled space. I wonder if when kids game it feels like it’s just theirs? That’s how my kids are when they’re in the gardens with their friends. They get up to stuff that parents (they think!) don’t know about and can’t control. I have no idea!! But I feel like this is their gaming replacement. I love the sounds of those chats. I so rarely get one on one time with mine. I’m going to make an effort!!

  24. AB says...

    I can relate to this. My 8 year old’s personality completely changes once he has video games added in the mix. We also feel guilty about taking the thing away during a pandemic but the thing just makes him anxious, short-tempered, and ungrateful. We also are having fun with more cooking recipes, science experiments, and comic book making with a little tv here and there :).

  25. Emily says...

    Hello! We have a 9yo and he gets an hour of video games on certain days of the week (w/f/sa/sun)
    I make sure he does everything else first- brush teeth, chores, etc. our switch has an automatic shit off we set for one hour so we don’t come turn it off. He seems to get those rules and doesn’t ask in between. More than an hour seems to dry his brain and any time seems to fry the brain of our 6yo.

  26. Christina says...

    My boys are teens, so it’s harder to limit screen time since they don’t really play any more, like younger children do. Gaming is what they do with their friends. But they have several activities, and we do make them join us for walks and bike rides, although sometimes with Pokémon Go :-). I really miss when they were little and we could limit screen time to between 18.00 and bedtime on weekends though!

    One thing that is so different from when we were children that makes it hard to compare is that now everything is on the computer/tablet/phone. When we were children we talked to our friends on the landline, listened to music on the stereo, wrote real letters, watched tv on a tv :-) – now it is all in one gadget. So we did do a lot of what our children do on their screens, just in another way.

    • teresa says...

      This is so true, in particular with my son. I have 2 girls and my youngest (now 14) is a boy. We had strict screen time rules for everyone and it was really never a problem until this year. It’s like you said, EVERYTHING is on a screen. School 8-2pm, homework, then, instead of talking on the phone or face timing with his friends (like my daughters did), he wants to play video games with his friends. They play together remotely and I hear them laughing, talking, strategizing… They also use a separate app, discord, to chat and coordinate game time.

      We still have rules about how long he can play, and even with some basketball and bike riding thrown into the day, the majority of his day is on a screen.

    • Chrissie says...

      I totally agree- it’s very different with teens! My son is 14 and that’s how he interacts with his friends. (Through video games that they play online)

    • Fiona Reid says...

      Yes! I also agree, and find it much harder to ‘control’ device time for my older children. It does not help that my husband and I are both working so much, – throw in COVID and I am an anxious mess about the amount of screen time my three have. They are all back at ‘in-person’ school now which is such a relief in some ways (see above) (mental health) and such a stress in others (Covid No’s climbing)…

      We have been watching TV together as a family in the evenings though – something all of us can enjoy, like Masterchef, The great British Baking show (which has inspired our own kitchen antics) or most recently ‘The long way up’ (inspiring talk of travel and such). A chance to all be in the same room as well as providing some solid talking points (around our screen free dinner table!) .

  27. Jemina Landingham says...

    I have two grown children. I wouldn’t ban video games because when they hang out with their friends someday they want to be good at playing the games. It’s what they do together. Also, check out the Wall Street Journal article about how good they are for you. Strategy, logic etc. And its interactive. Not as bad as you might think.

  28. Whitney says...

    My kids are still quite young (3 and 1) but my husband and I feel strongly about no personal devices until they are teenagers. I highly recommend the book Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport – it changed my life! It is not about children and devices but it addresses addiction to devices, social media, and digital lives in general. It talks a lot about how to manage your time in regards to screens/digital world so that you can utilize it the most efficient and high quality way possible.

    The research on what screens are doing to our brains is alarming to say the least :-/

  29. barbara geri says...

    One of the reasons I love visiting here is to remember my time as a mother of two boys, now 19 & 16. It has been so fun to watch your boys’ personalities emerge. Anton reminds me of all the fun (and sometimes naughty) times with my youngest. I did not cut either boys’ hair for the first two years as I adored their baby curls. One memorable Halloween, my youngest was dressed in cowboy boots, fringed vest and hat. When the doors opened, people would smile and say, what a cute “cowgirl!” I still smile when I recall his tiny blonde long curls! I love that picture of you and Anton Jo!

  30. Lynda says...

    we have never had a screen time limit. our 5-almost-6 yo son was never exposed to electronics until 4 yo when i was heavily pregnant with the second child, until we needed something to distract him so that mama can get some rest. ever since then, he sort of regulates himself. he would watch for 20 minutes and say he’s done, or sometimes we would offer screen time (so that we get a break!) and he would say no. of course everything changed when our city shut down back in march and he didn’t have any school to go to. he went from using screens since he woke up until he went to bed (slight exaggeration but you get the idea) but then again, i was at work everyday as an essential worker and dad had 2 kids to keep alive, so we did what we could. today, october 2020, he went back to school and watches TV/screens for about an hour at most on weekdays (sometimes none), and about 2-3 hour total on weekdays. he gets tired of it himself and turns it off when he wants. sometimes he still refuses to watch (over-screened himself?). i think it’s worked out for the best at this point.

    • Lynda says...

      as a tangent, how would you recommend discussion of religion, after-life, death, and ghosts with a 5-almost-6 year old? it seems so… heavy…

    • Byrdie says...

      I think limiting screen time early on is key. We did this with our first, but was harder to limit with our second (just more exhausted 2nd time around). I see a big difference in their ability to regulate even now at 7 & 10yo.

    • I recommend honestly…I’ve had to talk about death with my 4 y/o daughter out of necessity (I’ve lost a sister and dad, my husband has lost his mom).

      I wrote about it for Children’s Grief Awareness Month (which is November) – and the post has a lot of resources:
      https://hereforyou.co/blogs/news/talking-with-children

      But, in short, don’t lie and don’t use euphemisms.

      Also, here’s a list of great children’s books…I prefer ones that don’t specifically talk about heaven since those are not my beliefs. These books don’t say that there’s not a heaven, but through illustrations or the narrative leave it open-ended for the adult reading to decide what to say.

      Lifetimes: The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children by Bryan Mellonie | any loss, ages 5+ | Indiebound

      Something Very Sad Happened by Bonnie Zucker | any loss, but the illustrations show a woman with a child talking about the loss of someone else, ages 2-4 | Indiebound

      Michael Rosen’s Sad Book by Michael Rosen | any loss, ages 5+

      Missing Mommy by Rebecca Cobb | mom loss, ages 5+

      Saying Goodbye to Daddy by Judith Vigna | dad loss, ages 5+

      Goodbye Mousie by Robie Harris | pet loss, ages 4-9

      Samantha Jane’s Missing Smile by Julie Kaplow and Donna Pincus | dad loss, ages 5-9

      The Goodbye Book by Todd Parr | any loss, 4-9

      I Miss You by Pat Thomas | mom loss, 4-9

      A Terrible Thing Happened by Sasha Mudlaff | for a child who has witnessed trauma, ages 4-8

      Rudi’s Pond by Eve Bunting | friend loss, ages 4-8

      The Scar by Charlotte Moundlic | mom loss, ages 5-9

      Sammy in the Sky by Barbara Walsh | pet loss, ages 5-10

      The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld | empathy, ages 4+

      And these are good for middle readers:

      Mick Harte Was Here by Barbara Park | Sibling Loss, ages 10+

      If Only by Carole Geithner | parent loss (book focuses on a daughter losing a mother), ages 10+

    • Kim says...

      Matter of factly, delicately, but try not to seem fearful or bring these subjects up as scary things. Kids often accept these things at face value if they are presented without those emotions attached. I mean, of course if death is coming up because your goldfish died I would frame that differently than an abstract concept of every living thing eventually dies.
      Religion is probably more nuanced. I am not a believer so we talk about it is “some people believe…and they go to a place of worship called…” ghosts and monsters and scary things we frame as “make believe, not real.” Both of my children (4&6) haven’t been afraid of the dark or monsters/ghosts.

  31. Emily says...

    I have 4 kids. Back before COVID, we didn’t do screen time on weekdays/school days. But now that there are no extracurriculars taking up our afternoons and I am usually so burned out by the end of the day, M-Th they get the 5:00 hour for tv/iPad games while I make dinner and sit and rest. We do a family movie night on Fridays. Saturday and Sundays they might get a movie or they might not. In my I’m the perfect parent world, we don’t do screens except for the occasional movie, but alas, four kids and ten years into this parenting gig, I am picking and choosing my battles. I do watch their behavior closely though, and we have definitely had de-tox weeks where we unplug everything if it’s getting out of hand. Also, my kids are really good about imaginative play when not on screens. I do feel very strongly about kids not having their own devices until high school. We’re still a few years from that, but my kids already know to not even bother asking for their own phone/tablet.

  32. Valerie says...

    I have a 14 month old and we’re are very strict with absolutely no screens until at least the age of 2 with the exception of FaceTime. When my daughter gets older we may allow a movie here and there but I’ve been around children who have had virtually no screens up until age 10 and they are truly amazing. It’s so hard! I love old movies and watch tv daily.. I know this will be harder as she gets older!

  33. margaux says...

    i honestly wish we could do 100% no screens forever. my kids are just happier, more balanced kids without them. the tiniest access to TV/iPads makes them want MORE MORE MORE. recently, we were letting our girls spend about 1 hour/day on YouTube Kids (a.k.a. The Devil), but my husband and i have decided that it makes them extra cranky and complain about being bored. when screens are not an option, they don’t even think about it, and they find something to do or create. i really want my kids to be able to be able to be bored. so much of life is boring (hello, DMV and 2-hour zoom calls). if you can’t be happy bored, it’s gonna be hard to be happy. that said, sometimes i just have to put on a movie so i can have an after-work beer in peace.

  34. Carly says...

    Would love to hear tips on how to limit screen time once it’s a pretty established thing. Before COVID we did a half hour tv show once a week with our kids (now 3 and 5 yo). Now they’re watching a full Disney movie Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night. Honestly right now, it’s just as much of a break for me and my husband as it is for them. I’m not sure how I feel about maintaining this when we go back to working in-person though, and when we’re not around our kids so much during the day. I’m thinking that once things go back to the way they were, we’ll want that time to hang out with them without watching a movie. Right now though they look forward to ‘movie night’ so much, I can’t imagine taking it away.

    • Sh says...

      It’s hard to change this habit but I will tell you once you make it through about 2 weeks the kids adapt! I’ve toggled between limits and will tell you they will beg for what they are used to and it’s hard but totally worth it for more present kids (and parents)

  35. anon says...

    As many have said, I think it really depends on the child. When mine was young, we realized how a device could be a learning tool for her (she is on the spectrum). So we only allowed her to use certain apps/games (any day), and if it was video watching it was for long car rides, or about a couple of hours during the weekends. But she is a mid teen now, and over time has done well to regulate herself on her devices (iPad, mobile). We don’t allow social media for her, but she can access YouTube, and can purchase games through us, after we’ve checked it out. She doesn’t like to play against other people, so we’re fine on that end. She mostly listens to music while she draws, plays a few games, and/or watches videos like unboxings, etc. We check her devices periodically for her usage, texts with a friends, etc. She doesn’t have time limits now because she is very good about routines, so she usually does her school stuff first, exercise, then reads. Only after all that is done, and school is over, mostly in the afternoons, she’ll access her devices. In the evenings, she’s also good about keeping track of bedtime and turning in. Phone is now kept in her room overnight as an alarm clock (happened this sophomore year).

  36. Kimberly says...

    I was addicted to TV as a kid so that’s what has motivated my choices.
    We don’t own a TV, but they can listen to audiobooks all they want. (old school cd player!!!)
    I’ve never regretted it or seen a downside. When friends are over they’re bribing their kids with “just get through this and then you can have your show.” I know I have the same crutches as an adult.

    (5 kids)

    • Sara B says...

      My parents didn’t have a tv in the house until I was 17 and I read a ton. Once they got one, it was fun for a few weeks and then it lost its appeal. I wish I could do the same for my kids, but I think my husband might die without sports :)

  37. Ingrid says...

    As a general rule, we allow video games on weekends for our girls. I think it’s more common for parents to let boys game, so I want my girls to know about some games. We watch a movie on friday and saturday evenings, other than that I allow them to watch about 15 mins in the morning while I brush their teeth and hair. It’s been a lifesaver, my eldest girl hates it when I braid her hair, so this started because of that. Now they run to the bathroom in the mornings to do their grooming, and I get to work in time in the mornings.

  38. R says...

    We have a 3.5 year old and a 1 year old. Our older kid can watch 45 min of a show after quiet rest time in his room, during which the baby finishes napping. Combined with his rest time that gives me a 2 hour window of freedom in the afternoon! We don’t have a tv in our home and just use the iPad with a show we’ve selected, with the child lock on so he can’t scroll or tap.

  39. Sarah Darling says...

    Oh l so wish l was back in this age sometimes. As a single Mum of a 13-y-o daughter, it’s pretty much out of my hands now! She’s pretty good at self-regulating and l’ll often think she’s spent ‘too long’ on her phone, only for me to realise she’s actually been doing other things like crafting, watching tv, doing homework, sometimes while Face Timing friends, sometimes not – l think l sometimes just assume it MUST be all she’s doing. And it’s not. But l really feel l have no say. Which is hard. But l also want her to learn self-regulation so in some ways, she just has to learn in her own way and in her own time. It’s a minefield and it’s all new of course. We’re all finding our way. But l’m also sure if it wasn’t this, it would be something else. And l’m sure we’re all doing as well as we can.

    • beth says...

      This made me think back to when I was 13, and I literally spent HOURS on the (landline) phone every day, but I would also be simultaneously drawing, listening to music/making mix tapes, stretching and practicing my dance moves (ballet and weird routines only to see the light of day in my bedroom), etc. As the saying goes, there’s nothing new under the sun!

  40. Jess says...

    Exactly, they are all SO different! We personally don’t allow video games with our boys, 7 & 4. But don’t want them to feel like they are out of the loop and totally off limits either, so they’ve been allowed to play at a friends, yet they have had zero interest when given the opportunity! They would much rather be playing outdoors. They do average an hour of TV a day :)

  41. Katie says...

    When the pandemic hit and school came to an end I let my children do Khan Academy kids every weekday while I prepared lunch. Prior to that they had only ever used devices to watch videos with us or while traveling. However, one day I found that my illiterate 5 year old had been googling (by looking up words in books and typing them into the search bar which totally blew my mind) instead of doing the educational programs on the app. So, she lost the use of the iPad for a week which turned into a month. They occasionally asked to play and I would just respond, “Oh, not today.” Eventually, they stopped and I realized that I didn’t need the crutch as much as I thought. They were happy drawing, reading, building etc. So, you know, Anton may just realize he likes doing all those other things enough to continue not playing video games.

  42. Carrie says...

    We do about an hour or so on weekdays (educational shows only, usually PBS Kids), and about the same on weekends, but they can watch what they want (within reason) or play a video game for that time. My kids are almost 6 and almost 8. I think what works well is the tv time is always at the same time (at 4:30ish, while I make dinner), and then we turn it off for dinner, so there’s no arguing for more. I have one kid who can’t watch anything remotely violent without going kind of insane (power rangers are totally banned), and one who gets very cranky if we add more tv/games than that. It’s like he forgets how to play with his brother if I let him watch more screens. But! I need that hour at the end of the day to decompress, and I think they do too. What we’re currently doing works really well for all of us. They’re also playing imaginatively the rest of the time, so I feel good about it.

  43. Kelley says...

    Our two older kids are back in school full time, in person. Over the summer they watched a lot more tv and played computer games more than usual, but things were bonkers and we made allowances for the sake of our collective sanity. Now though, we’ve managed to have no screen time during the school week and then on Friday afternoon after school, they can play a video game or watch a cartoon until we have dinner at around 5 p.m, so about an hour. On the Saturday, we’re more loosey-goosey with the screen time and on Sunday we do a movie date with a small box of movie candy for each of them and we all curl up together. For now this seems to be working and it gives us plenty of time to talk and play and make crafts.

  44. Amy says...

    Pre-Covid, my 11 year old (6th grader) was allowed 1 hour of screen time a day, and she usually watched youtube videos. However, since Covid she has been playing video games (Minecraft, Roblox, Among Us) online with her friends – all girls she has known since Kindergarten. Her school is 100% “distance learning” through at least February 2021 and she only sees a few friends in-person (always outside and wearing a mask) so playing video games with friends is her primary social interaction right now and I don’t limit her time at all. In addition, she is still allowed 1 hour a day on her own – so she can still watch YouTube if she chooses or play more roblox! I’ll be honest, some days it’s a lot of screen time (HOURS!) especially when she is playing video games with friends. When I feel anxious about her screen time or wonder if it’s “too much”, I try to remember how much her world has been completely changed because of Covid and recall the joy in her voice when I overhear her laughing and talking with friends while playing the video games. It is what it is right now, but it won’t be this way forever.

    • b says...

      I don’t think anyone (kid OR adult) should use 2020 as a marker for the future, especially when it comes to screentime. There is plenty of time to course correct in 2021 and 2022 when (G-d willing) the world has a better grip on COVID and conducting work, school, and socialization solely online.

  45. Sally says...

    Hi Jo, We have 4 kids ages 20-12, and screen time without a doubt has been the biggest source of stress in our house!
    Like you said about Anton, 2 of my boys have always been highly impacted by screens to the point of addiction. I will say, those 2 have higher natural intelligence than the other 2, not sure that is an indication (the other 2 do just as well in school, so that is not a comment about cute Toby! Just different!). Also, to give you comfort – my oldest at age 20 has a healthy relationship w screens – he plays video games much less than his college roommates, and isn’t on his phone when he is with our family. He’d rather be outside doing something fun.
    Although our parenting is by no means awesome or the right way to do it, here are a few things we feel pretty strongly about:
    – No game consoles in our house. We had an old Nintendo for a year or so and it came out on special big group gatherings, which was fine. (Of course we’d forget to put it away until our youngest would disappear to get on it whenever he could!). For us, it was just setting the tone of the values in our house. We have lots of friends who got consoles to give their kids “social currency” to connect/make friends in school, and that is awesome – we just haven’t had to do that quite yet.
    – No screen time during the week. Again, somewhat inconsistent with this esp now that our kids are middle/highschool. But now since they’re on the screen for school most of the day, I’d rather them choose something more life-giving for ‘downtime’
    – No screen time until after 4pm – when they do get it during the week (*see inconsistent parenting/or in summertime). It always took so long for them to find another activity after turning off the screen so I figure if its after 4, then it’s dinner, sports, bedtime, etc.
    – TV is better than videogames, especially at your boys’ ages and stage of brain development. When they are in middle/highschool and playing video games with their friends as a way to connect and it becomes more social. But PASSIVE (TV/Movies) screen time is better for the developing brain than ACTIVE (gaming). Lots of research on this one.

    If my kids were your age in the pandemic, I would say 1-1.5 hours of passive screen time in the evening is good. It would be something fun for them to look forward to, too! You’re a good mom- you know what would be good for your boys on any given day. Some days just call for a cozy movie day after lunch!

    Good luck!

  46. Katrina says...

    My baby is only 9 months, but I’m already a little disturbed by the power of screens. So far I only use TV to get her to sit still for a 2-min. nail-clipping session. She’s obsessed with my phone though and always thinks we’re going to video chat with someone. Poor pandemic baby just wants to be social. It breaks my heart.

    • Danielle says...

      My daughter is the same way, she just turned one. We went into full lockdown right as she started becoming a bit more conscious of the world around her. To go from outdoor stimulation and seeing other babies to just being inside with me and her dad was a thought adjustment for us all.

      I probably use screen time for her more than I should, definitely more than recommended, but I have no regrets over it. Definitely helps with the nail clipping! I try to interact with the show when it’s on, pointing out characters or colours or things I see. She is desperate to be social as well- hang in there mama!!

    • Katrina says...

      Thanks! You too! Can’t believe what a year it’s been.

  47. Laura says...

    My 3 boys have never gravitated towards video games of any kind but do love television. Over the summer I relaxed our usual rule of no screens during the week (we do family movie night on Friday) and I let them watch an hour a day (also it was SO hot so outside play wasn’t always practical). Now that they’re back in online school, I feel they need more active play so away went weekday TV. My problem has never been that I think any of it is inherently bad, but rather that trying to get my kids to turn the device off at the end of the allotted time ALWAYS ended in a fight. It was exhausting!

    • Zahra says...

      We had the same problem. However, we finally found a solution that works like a charm. Set an alarm or two for the agreed time. So for instance, if they’re allowed screen time for half an hour then set an alarm on phone/ipad for 25 minutes and then another for 30minutes. So they’ll be prepared that their screen time will be over in 5 minutes.

  48. This is very apropos to my IG polling in my stories amongst close friends last week. My husband and I are TV people – it is always on and I really doesn’t bother me that our kids watch so much of it. They go back and forth between watching it and playing independently. But my 6 year is getting into video games – with the help of his gamer father. As a non-gamer it’s been very hard for me to wrap my head around it as a learning tool, but my husband does select the games he plays. To echo some others, my 1st grader is an avid reader partially from playing video games with his father (he makes him read everything out loud) and my husband swears by problem solving skills they can teach as well as understanding ethical dilemmas when they play 2-person games. It has actually become a very sweet time for them together, even if it’s more than I would like. My 4 year old on the other hand….sounds like Anton and then some!! All screen time (TV, movies, tablet, video games) seems to be a drug and we need a remedy for that kid!! I’m not sweating it though…(kicks self 5 years from now).

  49. Mag says...

    We have absolutely no video games rule in our house. Our young boys are able to watch certain shows, but no games. There is a lot of research to show how purposefully addictive they make them to be (so scary!!!) and it is not worth the risk for us.

  50. Megan T says...

    One counterpoint–parents need to make a better effort to not make screens a “special treat for good behavior” or “punishment”. Screens are screens, plain and simple. Kids are going to deal with them their whole lives and I think it helps to just have your kids learn to accept it is a part of life. A good analogy would be dessert and adults–think how so many of us feel guilty for eating that piece of cake, even in moderation. There are many positives to screens: Seeing family when we can’t, watching incredible movies and documentaries, video games teach kids competitive play. Our kids should know that screens are there and that some good stuff comes from them, but there are a lot of other ways to have fun too. We set a limit too (1 hour, video games OR tv) but don’t try to make a big deal either way. In the meantime, we have plenty of activities to help make more well-rounded kiddos!

  51. nancy says...

    This is a hot topic in our household. Prior to the pandemic the kids (6 and 9) and VERY little screen time of any sort. We introduced video games and, like everything, there is nuance. There is a huge range of video games out there. My husband is a gamer and I sometimes watch while he plays. A lot of games have deep character development, plots, and gorgeous camera angles. It’s like a movie and you get to choose what the characters do. In our household games that involve internet connections to others (minecraft, roblox) or are violent are strictly off limits. Both my husband and brother are successful computer engineers and both say childhood video games inspired them to become computer engineers. And I see my kids writing stories with video game characters and constructing levels with their Legos. It’s given them source material for their imaginations. Nintendo Labo has cardboard construction kits that you build, like building a piano with cardboard and rubber bands and then attach the Switch and can play music. But it has also made the kids loopy and irritable. In the end we limited to 1 hour a day and set all the parent controls so that a countdown clock on the screen appears every 15 minutes. They know they have to shut if off after an hour. And if things get really bad we can set the parental controls to so the game shuts off itself no matter what, which is the nuclear option.

  52. Melissa says...

    I find this very relatable! I have three boys, 9, 8 and 6 and we have no electronics on school days. Friday night we do a movie. Otherwise that’s been our rule forever and honestly everyone is happier for it. On weekends we pretty much let them go to town (Saturday mornings before noon it’s a free for all). It’s so black and white that they honestly never complain, they just know that’s the rule.

  53. katie says...

    My boys are newly 6 and 2.5 yrs old – I see Toby and Anton’s nearly matching age difference and look forward to moments like shared bedtime. Did the video game exposure come through big bro? We’ve avoided it so far – I bet if we were in school right now, there’d be kids talking about it and big bro would be more curious. We used to only have “video time” (tv) on the weekends for an hour each day, plus an evening 15 minute video. Now with the pandemic it’s one episode/30 mins after school and afternoon outside time. And weekends we have 2 hours on Sunday with little bro, mostly for mom and dad’s sanity. We’ve had some behavior issues and wish we could cut screen time cold turkey but with both parents WFH we just can’t swing the attention needed. At least it’s mainly PBS Kids/educational. For better or worse, taking away screen time is also the most effective discipline – he’ll shape right up if we mention it’s almost gone.

  54. BV says...

    My 5.5 yr old loves youtube kids (no videogames have been introduced yet). We tried to set limits on how much time he gets w/ the ipad, but obviously during the pandemic with no childcare, and both parents working from home, it was a total free for all (except I would delete/block any content I didn’t want him to see on a daily basis). As it turns out, he’s found channels that teach math and chess. So our 5.5yr old can add/subtract/do simple multiplication in his head, and he’s picked up Chess. This week he’s gotten super into the solar system, and has been prattling on about Black holes and random facts about each of the planets. So at the start of the pandemic I felt like the worst parent for allowing so much screen time. But I’ve come to realize that not all screen time is bad since he’s picked up an initial interest in math/chess/space from his ipad.

  55. Yvonne says...

    I have three kids – my daughter was never into video games; my youngest son could take them or leave them, but my oldest exhibited the worst behavior while playing video games. I did not like the behaviors he was exhibiting – when he lost, when he was asked to stop playing, etc. He was mean and ill-tempered. I didn’t like how he talked back when I would ask him to come to dinner. So, I just took it all away. I put him in sports and extracurricular activities outside of the house. He didn’t ask about getting game time back at all. Luckily, it was no big deal when we banned video games all together.

  56. betsy says...

    Pre-pandemic, we had a “no screens during the week” rule, which was becoming less strict as the kids got older. Now that school is so fluid, it’s much harder. I’m big on the idea of “earning” screen time with either exercise or chores. We also encourage games over passive TV, but only slower paced ones like Civilization, and never first person shooters.

    My middle kid had a real iPad problem when he was younger and every time we’d tell him his time was up, it was a total meltdown. So we took it away for about six months.

  57. C says...

    wish I new the magic answer to this constant dilemma. It appears to be a lot about the parents attitude/reaction too. Screens really stress me out and I hate video games. I feel physically awful if I sit on a screen for too long and completely unmotivated and rather anxious if I browse Instagram and Pinterest.
    I grew up w no tv, movies etc and so have been careful about Creating balance w my kids.

    Regardless of their distinct personalities, when they get outside, interact face to face, have a moment of boredom to figure out what to do, etc. they are more motivated, more communicative and creative. Their confidence levels also soar.

    This is not to say that all that cannot come about w screens. I figure we all will do the best we can until we know better for our own families and then we adjust. Right now is hard and the last thing anyone needs is more guilt and anxiety 💗

    Flexibility and communication are some of the most important aspectS of parenting to me. Trying new things out and involving your kids instead of setting arbitrary limits. And for us, focusing on what our family DOES do and not what we don’t.

    Finally, anyone out there have a YOTO player??

  58. Ditch the screens! As a generation of parents, we are dealing with a phenomena that has never existed before. The iPad is only 10 years old. We’ve never raised a generation of kids fully on screens yet. (The smaller, more interactive a screen, the more addictive it is. ie – a TV show is actually better than handheld video games.) You’ve seen what life is like without screens and it’s BETTER. We dealt with a lot of behavior problems around screens and in mostly getting rid of them and allowing zero video games, we are a much calmer, happier family. Our current rules for elementary aged boys: total of 2 shows (1 each) or a family movie on non-school days only. We also found screens in the morning ruined their behavior for the day. So we have to wait until after 1pm, they must have had breakfast, lunch, played and read first as well. On a typical Saturday, they don’t even ask for shows until mid afternoon. Let’s let our kids be kids, not screen-monsters! Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood has a lot of research on this topic that’s worth checking out for any parent.

  59. L says...

    am i the only one that’s curious as to why what Anton was punished?

    in terms of screen time, i say do what you’ve go to do.
    we like the xbox kinect for games – boxing is a great release and just dance is fun and funny. if you are doing remote school in NYC this may be recess.

    • Anna says...

      I personally am glad Joanna chose not to share! She’s been very intentional about not posting much about her boys’ personal lives, and I think that’s incredibly respectful. I cannot imagine having my more challenging moments being memorialized on the internet, particularly before being old enough to share them myself. I have always appreciated that Joanna is candid that things aren’t always easy and perfect, but that those aren’t her stories to share.

  60. Emily says...

    I’m so intrigued by this post. Not a parent yet (fingers crossed!) so I feel like I can’t really comment on the benefits/detriments – which I’m sure there are many – but I recall growing up in the 80s/90s where smart phones and tablets and personal computers just didn’t exist. My parents didn’t have video games in the house and we didn’t have cable so even if I was allowed to watch TV there wasn’t much to watch… I know times have changed, but it’s so interesting to me that we have so many debates on this topic when the majority of us grew up without it!

  61. Mollie Hindley says...

    We have a 10 year old and 7 year old, and they both really look forward to their evening video. Typically, it is just them snuggling and watching Netflix for 30 minutes, but we will sometimes make it a family night watching a series together.

    For us, it’s a reward for good behavior as well as something to enjoy for them. Very rarely do they loose their video, but if they do, it’s utter devastation, especially for the younger one!

    I have no problem with using videos some too occasionally for treat or celebration or a sanity saver. We’re distance learning so sometimes during lunch we’ll find a video on YouTube that corresponds on what one of them are studying.

    We all need time to unwind and let our mind just be entertained.

  62. HM says...

    I don’t have super strict screen time rules, but my kids know we don’t do (non-school) screens until the end of the day, while dinner is cooking. I work full time, and my kids are most capable of independent/creative play in the morning and early afternoon, then we try to get outside in the later afternoon.

    Because we save screen time for the end of the day, they don’t ask all day. And they’re often too busy doing other things to remember to ask for it.

    This rhythm works well for my family, but it’s 2020, do what works!

  63. Nicole says...

    I grew up playing video games all the time with my dad, as well as watching loads of TV (mainly sports and cartoons- again, my dad haha). I *think* I turned out fine. I read daily, and watch maybe 30-60 min of TV per week. Instagram is another story….:)

    With my kids, I do struggle with this. Pre-Covid, my oldest kid (now 3.5) watched a hour of TV on the weekend, none during the week. Now, he has stopped napping, so while his brother (1.5 yrs) naps, we have 2 hours to kill- one hour of reading/quiet time, and 1 hour of shows. Without it, I would get zero time to myself in the day (I’m no longer working thanks to The CV), and I just can’t deal with that. Do I think his behavior is worse? Maybe! Probably! But, my behavior is better, so I’m just accepting it.

  64. Sadie says...

    Growing up we didn’t have video games accept on the holiday or in the summer sometimes my parents would borrow a console from a friend. It was never a solitary activity, it was something we would do together. My brother is easily addicted to things and I think this approach of making it a group activity helped him.

  65. M says...

    No screen time works for us. The kids still get hooked on legos, and origami, and reading books, but those addictions don’t seem quite as powerful as screens.

    • Marie says...

      Same here – no screen time. Never had. Works for us, too ! But mostly I just wonder when we’d fit in a screen time ? We’re always busy with using our hands…

  66. Katey says...

    So many variables! :)
    We let our five year old watch about 1 hour of screen time while we get dinner ready (4-5 ish) before we ask her for help. The biggest consideration we have for her show consumption is pacing. How fast is the plot? How bright are the colors? How high-pitched are the voices? We’ve really whittled it down to five shows:
    -Mr Rogers
    -Sesame Street classics (seasons 1-20 are kinda whacky but much less kinetic in terms of stimuli than later seasons)
    -Kipper the Dog
    -Draw Me a Story (we just discovered this lovely low budget program in which a narrator tells a story and the screen is filled with a bird’s eye view of an illustrator doing their art)
    -Sarah and Duck

    Oh, on weekends, she can watch these shows in the morning. It is a lot of screen time, actually, and I do wonder if we’re doing her a disservice. We might revisit screen time rules, but the content is very controlled and does not cause me any guilt or doubt.

    Of one thing I am certain. Shows and stories do an excellent job of communicating emotions and interpersonal accountability. Her watching friendship dynamics between Kipper and his friend, Tiger, is way more instructive than me explaining friendship dynamics to her.

  67. Melz says...

    My 12 yr old son is addicted.
    It’s 100% online learning all day everyday. Then after school he gets on iPad for YouTube & video-games. It’s also is social outlet w/buddies as they text back and forth (on iPhone) abt you tube videos they are enjoying
    Parent FAIL! :(

    • Shaye says...

      Mine too. 9 and 11. But I blame it on Covid and working a full time job. I just decided not to beat up myself about it … especially as my girls are enjoying themselves, playing together and with friends. At least it is some joy.

    • Alison says...

      COVID has made things SO hard! You cannot limit screen time when they are forced to be on screens for a school day. You are not a fail! The older kids get, the harder it is to monitor and deal with all of this!

  68. Hayley says...

    My daughter is 3 1/2 and we don’t do screens every day (though admittedly we have upped screen time since the pandemic hit – tough times, desperate measures!). However, my nephews in Maine are only allowed an hour for the whole week (just on the weekend). While that’s a bit on the extreme end of what I think we’ll allow as our daughter gets older, I have to say, these are the most thoughtful, present, engaged kids. They don’t ignore adults like most kiddos do. They converse with you, they’re polite, they are more creative because they have more time to do art, write, play outside, etc.. I do think limiting screen time makes a huge difference in their behavior, the way they interact, etc..

  69. M says...

    My kids are 11, 10, and 7, and we’ve cycled through every iteration of rules around screens – no screens ever, no screens during the week, x minutes of screens during the week and x on weekends, etc. And I’ve talked with millions of friends millions of times about this, and read all the articles. The conclusions I’ve come to is that a) it really depends on your specific kid(s) – some kids looove screens like crack, and some couldn’t care less about them, and that is their nature and how they came out – nothing for you to feel shame or triumph about either way. Some kids like ours have ADHD and ensuing impulse control/attention issues, which in our case has made screens all the more alluring/difficult to put down, so I shouldn’t follow my friend’s advice who has obedient, focused, mature kids and therefore different needs/rules. B) Be consistent and firm about rules if you have them (we are not, and that has made things harder for all of us – the kids are confused, and my husband and I get worn down/out when we do try to enforce). C) Try not to let the research/friends/school/media muddy what you know and feel in our heart about screens and your family. We are all learning, no one is right, nothing is proven absolutely true about screens and kids’ behavior/pathology/growth/pscyhology, etc., and like with all parenting, the most important thing you can do is be attuned to your kids and yourself and your parenting partner(s) (if there are any)!

    All that said – I might try one of the other commenter’s MO of letting the kids go buck wild with screens and see if they gorge themselves, get sick of screens, and then regulate themselves thereafter! Why not try!!

    • lina says...

      M, I totally agree with you! All kids/families are different. I was pretty strict with my two (now 16 and 17) and it’s only in the last 2 years that I have “relaxed” and let them learn to self-regulate. Some days they lose interest, other days it seems like they’re online 24/7 especially with online school and lockdown during COVID. . At the end of the day, I often wonder if all those years limiting screen time really made any difference!

  70. Katie says...

    two semi-related observations from a psychologist:-)
    -back in the day, we saw our parents turn on the news, or look at the paper for the weather, or pull out a map to find directions. today, kids just see us staring at our phones and they don’t know why. I prefer overcommunication about purposeful screen time : “I’m going to check the weather for your soccer game tonight!” Etc.
    -recent research suggests that cortisol (the stress hormone) dramatically increases when your device is within reach but not in use (prompting us to pick it up and doomscroll…yet again). Out of sight, out of mind!

    • Whitney says...

      Research also shows that just having a device within reach or sight decreases our problem solving skills. These devices are so destructive to our brains and well being. I am a public school teacher interested in starting a campaign for anti-screens in education and promoting the research about what these screens are doing to us. It is terrifying that so little thought goes into the long term side effects.

  71. Jean says...

    Darn. I have no childcare help and am home with the kids all day, and I was just starting to let myself feel ok about letting them have an hour of videos a day. After reading all of this, I kinda feel like crap about it again.

    • Allie says...

      Dude, fuck that noise and do what works for you. xoxo

    • Chayary says...

      Don’t! Focus on the comments that are telling you that its ok! If that hour is what you need to get through what sounds like a challenging day, and be a better mom because of it the rest of the time, be proud of how awesome you’re doing!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Yes GO FOR IT! Our close friends don’t limit their kids’ screen time at all and they’re the most well adjusted kids we know. It’s all fine. We just noticed Anton having a tough time w certain video games but meanwhile Toby is thriving w screen time. You just do what you have to do, it’s a global pandemic. You’re doing a great job.

    • CK says...

      DON’T feel like crap! i’m in the same boat. you’re doing the best you can.

    • Jennifer says...

      Ditto the comments! Do what works for you and don’t feel compelled to feel judged or feel like crap. We are all doing the best we can with what we’ve got!

    • Whitney says...

      Jean,

      I don’t think anyone should feel shamed about what they are doing – especially in a time of crisis! I would however, recommend EVERYONE researching the impact of extended screen time on brains. Feeling guilty about screen time doesn’t help anything! But being educated on the matter is super important – something we never really considered in our recent history because all of this is so NEW. I am starting to see screen use as our generation’s cigarettes. The knowledge of the direct harm caused won’t be widely available and understood for quite some time. (My grandparents were addicted to smoking by age 12 – they had no idea it would be so detrimental to health.) When I started to actively research screen use and what it does to our brains, I was shocked. It isn’t until we start learning exactly what it all entails that we can do something about it. I loved reading the books “How To Break Up With Your Phone” and “Digital Minimalism”. I would like to read a book specifically about screen use and children next.

    • kelly says...

      i was feeling the same! since covid, we’ve thrown all rules out the window. my 5 yo twins and 3 yo get a TON of screen time everyday, but i’m wfh fulltime for a high stress corporate job and my partner has become full time teacher/special ed teacher/speech therapist/occupational therapist/physical therapist for our special needs son. i keep telling myself that any damage we’re doing now with screen time will be undone later when we have more capacity!

  72. Eleanor says...

    I think a lot of this is age and child dependent. When my kids were very little, we didn’t do any games, and the only shows were things we owned, not online. As they got older, we added additional age-appropriate options. Once they hit middle school, I let them make their own choices, while reserving the right to take away certain things or limit time as needed. Now, my high school son uses games to spend time with his best friend across the country, and my daughters binge Gilmore Girls and Designing Women while they knit. They all balance it with outdoor activities, reading, community service, etc. I feel like as long as it’s *an* interest or past time, and not the only one, it’s fine. Kids need to have chances to develop interests, make choices, and learn to self regulate, and this is a good area for that. Plus, 2020.

  73. Anne says...

    I’m having this debate about myself! Last fall I did a month of zero internet use outside of work or chores. It drove me insane (I quit after 3 weeks), but my inner life was so rich and I used my time on meaningful projects, like re-reading favorite books. I am absolutely susceptible to addiction and I constant struggle to dial it back. I would vote to set whatever limits for Anton that you can manage during these difficult times, because he’ll need to learn the coping mechanisms to deal with screens for his whole life.

  74. Sara says...

    In our house when our kids were younger, we made other things “rewards” – like extra reading time with a flashlight at night, an outing with mom or dad, game night where the child picks the game, extra time for bike rides or visits to a park. We tried to pick our battles and set limits but tried to make other things seem more appealing (and in the end, they were!) We once threatened our 2 who were misbehaving with no books at bedtime and were met with tears! Yes, they earned it back!

  75. Tristen says...

    Same– my kid is super sensitive to screens, especially video games. I was not philosophically opposed to them, but they really amp him up so we have to say no screens during the week. He can have movies on weekends but never video games, at least not for now. I wish I could just give him a screen sometimes but he’s much more self-directed and regulated without screens, and video games make him positively loopy.

  76. Jen says...

    We have a 7 year old and pre-pandemic were totally against screen time for her. She got to watch movies or PBS Kids on the iPad if we were on vacation, but otherwise, it remained off. We’d occasionally have family movie night, but mostly she would play with toys, read, draw, ride her bike, play in the yard, etc. Quarantine shifted it quite a bit since all her schooling moved to online — now she has about 2.5 hours each weekday just for live learning and then another 30-60 minutes independent online work. We try to spend the rest of the day screen-free but it’s super hard when both parents also work from home. In the event that both of us need to be on conference calls at the same time, she watches PBS Kids. We do not, and will not, allow video games. Neither her father nor myself grew up with access to video games and very much feel like it was to our benefit. We also aren’t on social media and feel quite strongly about restricting her access to that as well.

  77. Joanna says...

    We have a no screens rule during weekdays, enforced 100%, and our children (8 and 10) get up to so much role playing and little art projects or play music, Lego’s, walk our neighbour’s dog… or get bored, which is a great state of mind to spur creativity!
    On the weekend we watch a family movie or nature documentary on Fridays and Saturdays and then they can watch a show or play with the iPad but never for longer than an hour. We try to go outdoors on the weekends, to do sports, galleries, ride bikes, walks in nature and make it fun and adventurous (aka bugs, leaves, fly a kite, etc). We live in a big city but there’s always big parks!
    We will delay them getting mobiles until they are in secondary school and then we will set rules and boundaries on usage with them.
    Too much screen time makes us numb, as adults, why wouldn’t it have the same effect on younger people?

    • Emily says...

      Totally agree! So encouraging to hear other parents making similar choices! We are opting for talk/text only phones when we do get them a phone in 9th or 10th grade.

    • Whitney says...

      Joanna, thank you for mentioning the importance of boredom!! It is crazy how we won’t allow even a second of boredom in our lives anymore. No one is alone with their thoughts or opening up their minds. Everyone wants to have something to consume. It is so scary! I see parents putting iphones in their baby’s hands so they can have easier diaper changes, kids on ipads waiting in line at the grocery store, using screens to stay entertained on short car rides. But then I realize adults are also scrolling their phones while sitting on the toilet, neck down staring at Facebook at the grocery store, and responding to texts mid-commute. It is absolutely OUT OF CONTROL. Boredom ignites creativity and it is a HEALTHY state of mind.

  78. This is so interesting! I don’t have children yet but I work with them as a pediatrician. Official recommendations are no more than 2 hours a day, but the truth is we don’t know much about how the type and quality of media affects child development. There’s good and bad types of screen time for sure and it will be interesting to see what new research unfolds on this topic in the coming years.

    That being said, screen time can be a wonderful distracting and anxiety-reducing technique for my practice. The most anxious kid can be totally unfazed getting a procedure like sutures done in the ER with just a little local anesthesia and some youtube!

    Thank you for sharing your experience with Anton. Every kid is different but it does help to hear about different approaches and experiences.

    • Emily says...

      Isn’t that super scary? That a screen can “numb” our kids so quickly and so reliably? Man, really makes me realize how powerful those screens on our kids’ developing brains must be!!! Eek!

    • Whitney says...

      Wow – I have the same reaction as Emily. It’s like in movies when they start erasing people’s memories and they start having brain damage. Sorry but I would rather my child cry. Pain is a part of LIFE. Learning to cope, overcoming difficult situations, getting comforted by mom and dad… those are all far more important and meaningful than getting distracted by a bunch of moving pixels.

    • Megan says...

      Yes, TV can be an essential distraction sometimes! I had a homebirth this spring and my 4-year-old watched TV for a few hours until grandpa was able to arrive. TV allowed my husband to support me during labor and to be there for the birth and my kid was thrilled about getting to watch much more TV than usual!

    • Emily, what I find scarier is that there is evidence that giving sugar water to young infants neutralizes their pain response- another technique we use to minimize pain during necessary procedures in our youngest patients. Super interesting, and I am glad we’ve found a way to use this knowledge to help our patients feel less pain and anxiety, but a scary thought all the same!

      I do want to add though, that this is not to say that giving more than the 2 hour limit of screen time or allowing a kid to have sugar are necessarily bad parenting. In my experience, there are very few wrong ways to raise a child, and the vast majority of parents are doing their best. I think this is especially important to remember during a pandemic where virtually every aspect of our lives have changed. Not sure if any parent needs to hear this right now but just in case – you’re doing a great job!

  79. Rachel says...

    Our 5 year old and 3 year old watch 50 minutes 3 times a week (M,W,F). I use the time to meal prep and anything else I can fit in. I often wish for more time but have found this limit to be the right balance for all of us. I’ve been surprised how great they are at making up games, getting lost in building Legos, flipping through a bazillion Berenstain Bear books, etc when an afternoon without shows rolls around and they wonder aloud what they should do.

  80. Sarah P. says...

    I am very passionate about screen time limits. It is absolutely a tool but I believe should never be a crutch. My kids are currently home for a snow day (we live in CO) and they have been playing by themselves making necklaces, playing Jenga, playing in a sensory bin and making pictures on the lite brite for upwards of 2 hours. I credit this to our firm limits and not being afraid of being bored. During the school week they get 15 min a day. Weekends are still 15 min but we incorporate movies and sports. They are young (6 and 4 – their 1 yr old brother is clueless to TV) and so we feel these are formative years for playing outside, running, biking and exploring. It’s not easy when my 6 yr old whines about being bored, but I just make sure to put activities out for them to discover and engage on their own. Don’t get me wrong, there are days when they sit and watch king stretches or have more time on their Kindles. They didn’t even have Kindles until April of this year when I ordered out of desperation and stay and home requirements. We see DRASTIC behavior differences if they are engaged with technology too long. One important this to note though, is that this behavior needs to be modeled. If parents are on phones all the time, kids notice. I got off social media about a month ago and out entirely family engagement has improved. We play outside together. We go on bike rides and have family game nights. I feel super convicted that technology has a purpose but will not rule our lives. Hoping setting boundaries early will help when the kids get older.

    • Sarah P. says...

      Lots of typos! Sorry!

  81. florence says...

    We do one day a week (Saturday) with no screens at all, parents included (I try not to use my phone, no ipads, or TV that day) to balance out the rest of the week. My kids are 4 and 7 and sometimes they whine, but now they look forward to playing board games, being outside more, reading books, and doing different activities that day.

    The rest of the week, our random rule is one show (20-25min) and one movie on Sunday. The 7-year old is also allowed to play a video app game on the tablet instead of watching a show two days a week (Sonic, Minecraft, and Pokemon are his favorites. I check CommonSense media on video games and movies in general). If they are reading on the tablet or playing online chess, we are flexible. This works for us, but everyone’s situation is so different!

  82. Jessica O'Malley says...

    Oh, this makes me so sad. Both my husband and I are juggling work and Zoom School and spending time with our 5-year-old, who also happens to LOVE Minecraft. He’s such a happier kid with limited game time, but “Minecraft Hour” in the afternoon usually turns to several hours during work meetings and by dinner time, he’s a zombie. We’re so lucky to be home with each other and have jobs that provide flexibility, but I wish we could do less screen time…

    • celeste says...

      You’re doing great! It seems this is a super strict crowd.

    • Michelle says...

      I’m right there with you Jessica. Hang in there. This is work-from-home, school-from-home survival mode. Do what you have to do and try to remind yourself that this is just a season (that he will probably remember as awesome).

    • Melissa Leonard says...

      It is NOT easy Jessica. Sometimes you have to do what you have to do. I think that in a way, our kids use these games as a way to socialize in an otherwise very isolated time. I am no fan of screens either, but be kind to yourself and he’ll be okay!

    • Erin G. says...

      Jessica, I could have written this (but with a 7-year-old). You are not alone. I feel the same way. We’re all trying hard. It just sucks…

    • Sarah says...

      My kiddos watched 2 to, sometimes even (gasp) 3 hours daily for like 4 years so I could work from home part time. 🤷‍♀️I couldn’t find good childcare during non preschool time so Tv was my afternoon babysitter in 95 degree summers. It did not kill them. This is a tough crowd. Do what you need to do.

  83. Nina Nattiv says...

    I have twin girls, so the differences are amplified. One of my girls can watch tv and turn it off and be fine. The other, no matter how much she watches, is a monster for a little while after it turns off. She just has a hard time transitioning away from TV and I let her watch knowing the consequences. But sometimes we all just need to turn of our brains and its worth it.

  84. Courtney says...

    Bahh. Pre-COVID, we had strict limits–our oldest (11) got half an hour at night, ending an hour before his bedtime. He and our middle (7) got more screen time on weekends–they wake up before us and would usually watch a movie or something. Our youngest (2) gets nada.

    But with the pandemic, and screens being their only way to interact with their friends, it’s been … more. We recently cracked down and said nothing in the morning on school days, and nothing after school until all schoolwork is done (seems so obvious but …). Even then, we haven’t set strict guidelines on how much time is appropriate, and we probably should. I’ll be curious to see what others say.

    They do both get plenty of activity/outdoor time–we try to do daily walks, they have recess outside and often play (outside/masked) with neighborhood kids in the afternoon). But it still seems like too much screens.

    • juju says...

      My brothers and I were super earlier risers, so the deal was that we could go downstairs and eat pop tarts and watch tv on weekend mornings, as long as we stayed in our rooms until 6am(!) and didn’t bother our parents until 8am. I have such fond memories of that delicious parent-free, JUST sibling time. Lots of TV was watched and plenty of sugar was consumed and we’re all still super close now that we’re in our 20s and 30s (and pretty well adjusted, haha).

  85. Jennifer says...

    I haven’t had a chance to read all the comments but yes- I’ve had this epiphany too! We had to ban certain games as a consequence (Minecraft, Roblox, you tube kids) but let him read on Epic, or other reading apps, or watch some TV shows in the morning (my kids are early early risers). It’s made a huge difference.

    My younger son doesn’t have the screen time problem- either because he’s younger and still into Toca Boca games (Pet doctor is magic! Hair salon, we adore you!) but he’s just an affected.

    My older one now writes his own stories about World War II or creates more experiments (he’s created a Covid vaccination out of hot water and lollipops). No going back now.

  86. Rosie says...

    Video games are definitely not a thing in our house, but our daughter has unlimited screen time. Her other mom is one of those people who always has the TV on in the background while she works and when she sets up for the day at the desk in the family room the TV goes on and it stays on until dinner when we turn it off for a couple of hours and then it is back on once my daughter goes to bed. It’s news a lot of the time, but whenever my daughter isn’t in her room doing school or reading which she does a lot the two of them are watching TV. My daughter loves to spread crafts out on the coffee table and watch things like Gilmore Girls while painting.

    • Dee says...

      Rosie. Just commenting to say this sounds like a really lovely warm childhood!

    • Allie says...

      Gilmore Girls is such a great background show while doing other things! It’s so talky, so you hardly ever have to look at the screen:)

  87. Miriam Kendall says...

    Love this! Our biggest issue is we let our kids (2 and 3) watch shows every morning while we’re all waking up (so mom and dad get to drink a quiet cup of coffee). Would love any suggestions about other good rituals for when our family needs quiet time. This is such foreign territory for me because my husband and I both grew up with zero limits around screen time and my family definitely utilized television to decompress so we could all disengage and relax for a bit.

    • Michelle says...

      If you have an alexa or google home, try playing the radio or kids audiobooks. My kids are transfixed! There are some good story podcasts or you can get audiobooks on cd from the library if you’re old school like me. They especially love audio versions of shows/books/movies they’re familiar with.

  88. tina says...

    what a gorgeous discovery! how wonderful to have this special unexpected time with Anton.
    if i may, i would like to point out that a month without video games is not a consequence but a punishment. i’m gently advocating for calling a spade, a spade. consequences are results of actions. punishments are engineered.
    maybe the word “punishment” is too harsh. maybe we need to find a new one… but calling things by what they are not (especially as we discipline kids) might be confusing/unfair/manipulative… clear is kind.
    as for screens… not a screen free as i would like, but pretty close.

  89. Caitlin says...

    I am loving reading everyone’s responses! Seems so interesting to hear what different approaches work for different families.

    I have a 2.5 year-old and a 1 year-old so we haven’t really started this battle. The older one might watch a 30 minute show once a month or so, but doesn’t really get that TV is an option and doesn’t even know what video games are! We have it easy for now!

  90. Rebecca says...

    My kids are much younger (2 and almost 5), but I’m pretty against screen time for little ones. My son has about 60 minutes of online preschool 5 days a week currently and we usually watch 1 or 2 20-minute story times a week (I’m a children’s librarian), but we don’t even own an iPad or tablet and certainly don’t own one for the kids!!!! Putting your kids in front of an app is NOT helping them learn unless you are sitting there and TALKING about it WITH them. There is tons of research on this. I completely understand that in conditions right now, there are plenty of families out there that don’t have a lot of other options, which sucks, but especially before the pandemic, this is something that drives me bonkers! If they’re bored, TAKE THEM OUTSIDE. Play a game with them, get off your own phone and make believe, read a book, color a picture, anything!!!!! I know everyone needs a break, but throwing an iPad at them is not the only answer. Little kids do not need to spend time on technology. There is literally no reason for it (in non pandemic times!!!) except to talk to family.

    Your kids are older, so that is something else to navigate. I’m not sure if they in school or virtual right now. If they are in virtual school, that is probably WAY too much time in front of a screen. They are old enough to read books on their own or play games etc. There is also a ton of research on how screens affect mood etc. which your seeing first hand.

    I know this is a really difficult time for so many families with kids out of school, but I don’t think increases screen time is helping anyone. It’s an easy short term fix, but none with lots of consequences. 🤷🏻‍♀️

    • marie says...

      I dont think ‘learning’ is the 100% objective with screentime. sometimes you need to change a load of laundry or make dinner and need your kids to be quiet for 20 minutes. in a pandemic, with NO childcare, while working, I think as long as you’re realistic about your expectations of ipads (ie: your kid probably wont because a genius on a toddler puzzle app), I dont see a problem with them at all.

    • Cyd says...

      Wow, pretty judge-y. I am a critical care physician who works 70+ hours a week with a husband who also works insane hours. So our toddler gets an hour or so a day of Elmo so we can make dinner, clean the house, and generally breathe for a short period of time. He. Is. Fine.

      I had a LOT of guilt over messages like Rebecca’s, thinking I was ruining my child. I then found that every one of my other friends kids (also pediatricians for the most part) also let their kids watch an hour or two as a means of reprieve and… their kids are fine.

      Having that hour makes me more sane which makes me a better parent. I don’t find the guilt useful.

    • Lily says...

      Messages like these remind me of the other advice that Joanna has posted on this site before: Good for her. Not for me. As if parents (and mothers in particular!) need to be saddled with yet more guilt about what they’re supposedly doing wrong and all the ways they’re failing to live up to society’s impossibly high standards (with basically no support from said society to boot!)

      For everyone out there who’s wringing their hands about potentially ruining their children from an excess of screen time because you’re trying to build this plane while you’re flying it in a world that is sometimes literally on fire: you’re making the best choices you can make with the options you have at the moment. Good on you.

  91. Ragon says...

    We’ve always been pretty consistent with setting clear expectations for our now 8 year old. Before pandemic times she got 1 30 min slot to watch a show on weekdays if we didn’t have anything else happening (we always encouraged her to choose real life options over tv). On the weekends she had 2 30 min slits to use as she liked, video games or tv. Now she get 2 30 min slits on weekdays, 3 on weekends. Sometimes she plays Minecraft or Lego HP (often with her dad). Sometimes she uses it for tv or ipad. She controls the what (within reason) and when, we control how much. We taught her to set a timer for video games and she’s very responsive to that. I do limit what games are on the iPad. And we do Family Movie Night on Friday together, which we all enjoy. The balance works well for us.

  92. Rhona says...

    We have committed to no TV Monday-Thursday and have a movie night every Friday and allow TV on weekends and it has made a huge difference to bedtimes. No more fighting about turning off the TV to head to bed, lots more time to read and play. They still ask sometimes but understand that it is a no on school nights. No regrets.

  93. Anna Smith says...

    I could actually use advice on how to help my husband (!) with this. We don’t own a TV, but he loves YouTube and will spend hours watching all kinds of content on his phone. Much of it is educational and allows him to dive into topics he wants to learn more about, but I still think hours of being sucked into your phone—no matter the reason—is not a healthy habit. I feel odd telling my grown husband how he should spend his time, but it drives me bonkers when I look up at all different times of day and he’s wearing headphones, absorbed with his phone.

    We also have a 6 month old and I do not want her to start picking up cues like this from us. She already is distracted by screens which is really disturbing!

    • Judy says...

      Have you watched The Social Dilemma? (Yes, it requires more screen time, but I found it worthwhile!) My husband is similar in that he only watches educational videos, but a rabbit hole is a rabbit hole! Might help him to see that he is being sucked in because of algorithms, and that they are specifically targeting him for the exact purpose of keeping him online. Even though I’m pretty aware that all social media does this, it was still eye-opening.

    • Allie says...

      Oh my gosh, this is me. I would love more discussion and help on this topic – how to limit screen time for your spouse?!?!!?

    • katie says...

      Anna, I think sharing it from the lens of connecting with your daughter would make biggest impact. She’s right at the cusp of becoming more fun, too, and hopefully that would help your husband be able to engage. I like the perspective offered here of creating deliberate time – maybe rather than start with limits, establish “dad-baby 30 minutes fun time” as a routine. Or if he had a set time where he could be out of sight watching videos, so your daughter doesn’t see the absorption? (I know that doesn’t help you with kid-watching). If it’s a concern now, I can speak from experience that it will likely amplify. I hope something can work out.

    • Michelle says...

      I admit that I’m bad about this too. My android phone has great “digital wellbeing” settings that allow you to add an app timer and “focus time” where you can set a schedule to disable certain apps. He may just not realize how much time he’s spending but if youtube disables after 30 minutes it might be a good reminder.

    • Whitney says...

      My husband and I read the book “How To Break Up With Your Phone” together and it was life changing!! We were tired of feeling so addicted to our phones and this book helped us totally restructure our time and helped us form a healthy relationship with our phones. I think doing it together is great because then there is no finger pointing.

  94. Michele says...

    I totally agree Kate. I casually limit screen time, but it’s really not an issue at our house (I’m a single parent and share custody with my ex). The TV goes on and off through the day if we’re home, but more often than not he’s the one to wander away from a show, or turn it off, and turn his attention to something else. So I don’t worry about it.

    My close friend however, is hyper focused on screen time and it seems like it’s a constant discussion with her son. Instead of limiting his interest or obsession, it is almost all he will talk about. At school pick up the first thing he’ll ask is when he gets his evening TV. It just seems like the limits and discussions have magnified his obsession with TV and made TV into such a BIG DEAL. I don’t interfere of course – she knows her son better than I do – but it seems if so much attention wasn’t being put on TV time it wouldn’t be such a big deal to him.

    • marie says...

      YES! totally agree with this.

    • Megan says...

      My 6 year old is so affected by screentime, especially interactive screentime like games!! She has big emotions and we’re always working on strategies to share and face feeling in safe and productive ways. It’s wild how she reverts after screentime, pretty much without fail. We’ve found that podcasts have been a pandemic LIFESAVER. She listens to story pirates, circle round, and wow in the world and draws or plays with her headphones on. It can be hard for her to turn pocasts off at times but nothing like screentime. We let kids watch nature or baking shows in the evenings if we really need a break and they get to watch TV shows on weekend mornings which both kids, 6 and 3, really look forward to all week. It’s been a long road to settle on this rhythym but it finally feels stable and mostly works for all of us.

    • Kristen says...

      This is definitely true for our kids (6 and 8). We set up screen time limits on our ipad, hoping they’d start to learn about managing time on their own, but it actually turned screen time into an obsession. We’d be out having fun with friends and the kids would be totally distracted, worrying that they wouldn’t get to use up their daily minutes before bed! They did so much better with general rules — like no screens until school is over and you’ve played outside.
      If only there were one magic solution that worked for every kid…

  95. Lindsay says...

    Yes! I definitely notice a positive behavioral change when we eliminate screen time fir our 10 & 13 y/o. It’s hard to do bc there’s a transitional period where they complain and become very upset, but afterward we end up actually enjoying each other so much more. I have no advice on setting limitations bc it fluctuates in our house, but overall I’d say less screentime is a good thing.

  96. LCS says...

    We don’t own a TV and there has always been very little screen time in our house, because we noticed that anytime our oldest (5) watches Mr. Rogers or Planet Earth, he is so whiny afterward. It is frustrating, but I realized that he does not yet have the emotional or mental capacity to manage screens, and that we need to do it for him, which largely means no screen time. When the going gets rough, I remind myself that it’s good for him to be bored sometimes, and that it is not my responsibility to entertain him. I also try to be mindful about my own screen time, and turn my phone off every week from Friday night to Sunday morning. Guess what?? I never miss A THING. And I feel so much better for it – more focused and less distracted, I sleep better even. And I read more. Good luck with whatever you decide!

  97. Cia says...

    The pandemic has been such a challenge for this issue! We let things go a lot this spring when it was all of us just trying to get through each day. Our poor toddler was on screen overload, but with a 1st grader to teach remotely and two full-time working parents with no outside help it was all we could do to make it work. Now that preschool is back on, we’ve settled back into a good routine. No TV on the weekday mornings makes everything less of a fight and the kids don’t even bother asking anymore. We’ve also recently stopped screens in the evenings too–just one 30 minute show after dinner if they’ve had a good day. The kids play together, we listen to music and have really lovely family time. On the weekends we sort of go crazy–the mornings can be a lot of screen, but it lets us sleep in past 7 and gives us the break we need to be better parents. And Pizza Movie nights on Sunday are always a hit!

  98. s says...

    I must say that my husband play video games since his youth and my background is in IT. In our household, we don’t shy away from technology or screens. We find that instead of fighting it, we are going to use it to our advantage.

    My husband sits and game (minecraft mostly) with my 5 1/2yo son together. They have closer than ever bond these days, my son is finally eager to learn to read and spell (so he can search for items on his own), he can understand english now (we speak norwegian at home) and here and there when the opportunities arise, my husband will give him life lessons 😂

    I do notice if my son just have screentime without any time outdoors, then the moody or disagreeable persona will come out. Therefore, we balance the screentime with family activities outside especially on the weekends.
    One hour before his sleep time, we will all get off our gadgets and piled up in the bed to hang out. Btw, we tried kindle on him for bedtime stories, but he prefers real books😂

    Tbh, screentime at our home has not been as bad as I have anticipated so far😄

    • K says...

      That’s good to hear! My husband loves videogames too and I like some as well.. we’re hoping to have lots of family time that will involve videogames / movies as well as the outdoors and exercise as a family. I think balance is key!

    • So happy to read this. I strongly believe in learning kids how to use the screens to their advantage (and what to be careful about) He’s 8, so yes, this is different when they are 2. I am always very surprised when parents are strict about times, but not content. Content is very strongly monitored and if possible, I want to be able to see what he’s doing on the big screen.
      For my kid, it’s a part of life that needs to be learned and there’s guidelines for times and content that help with that. And conversation around it is very important. Why are certain games free, how is that possible etc. And since I’m Dutch, I’m very happy that he also learns English in an age-appropriate way. I also appreciate the qualitytime with his dad who enjoys games like Minecraft and Animal Crossing. It’s a joy to watch (and honestly I’m happy to be called a ‘noob’ by the both of them. I can read a book alongside. 😇

  99. Rachel says...

    Our kids lost screen time for the month of September. We caught them playing games on their Kindle fires over an hour after they sleepily pretended to bed down. We realized they were logging 2-3 hours a night after bedtime. In the month without screen time they played outside more and are now so much more engaged in anything they do on the screens because they appreciate it more.

  100. Valerie says...

    No kids but I’ve had to make screen time rules for my self (because 2020). Tried different things, but in the end it turned into no mindless scrolling. I can intentionally check insta & spend some time on there. I can’t just open it because I’m bored or have a second. Has really helped my sanity!

  101. Erin says...

    i haven’t read all the comments so maybe someone else has mentioned this. there is a chapter in Glennon Doyle’s “Untamed” about a similar situation. I think it was more related to her teen being on a phone/social media but she also had a break and noticed such a positive change in the teens behavior. They then had a conversation about usage moving forward and it was so good!! Might be something to look up if you are wondering how to frame the conversation post-ban. :)

  102. Rusty says...

    Wow! BIG topic.
    The research on this one is massive. Massive!!!
    The key appears to be the TYPE of games. Quantifiable research.

    My best friend’s son is a prime example of playing aggressive/hunt/kill games. When he’s playing or recently finished playing, he is foul mouthed and aggressive. His behaviour got worse and worse until they put limirs on his game time, but… what a battle! They absolutely wish they didn’t wait so long to establish limits.

    I think the most important thing is to begin as you intend to proceed. Establishing the TYPE of games as well as the amount of time. Yikes! Big, very important, life moderating, challenge.
    So worth the effort and diligence required.

  103. Carly says...

    My parents did not permit my siblings and me to play video games growing up and were very anti-screen time. I remember HATING it and being jealous of my friends who had Game Boys and were allowed to play Sims (90s kid!). I also remember feeling very embarrassed when I would have classmates over and the options were outdoor play or board games.

    While implementing a total ban on screens is probably not the right move, I have to say that as an adult I’m really thankful for this upbringing. My siblings and I are avid readers and, impressively, my sister doesn’t use social media whatsoever except for work-related tasks (my brother and I use it sparingly). There’s no way to know if things would be different had our parents allowed us to play video games, but I suspect our interest in reading developed in large part because screens were not an option. Food for thought!

  104. E says...

    My baby’s too young at the moment, but as I’ve watched myself get hooked on screens, I’ve been trying to come up with recreational screen-time (excluding things I know are edifying for me, like books and audiobooks) restrictions that I can follow too. I want to model good screen time, just an ambition at the moment but this article is a good reminder to start thinking about that again.

  105. Julie says...

    I don’t have kids but I’ve been deleting instagram off my phone for days or a couple weeks at a time. I LOVE it.

    • Same! I never realize how much time I waste on it until I check the stats and am horrified. Also, I sleep better, feel better about myself and have a much lower overall stress level. I’d probably delete it all together if it weren’t for promoting my business.

    • Johanna says...

      Yup! My toddler isn’t interested in screens much (yet!) but I do monitor it for myself. In my case, I think it depends a lot on what’s on the screen. Certain sitcoms, political talk shows and Facebook/Twitter have a negative impact on my being.

      On the other hand: movies, slow-burning dramas, and blogs make me happier. Interesting how we can naturally ration ourselves with some indulgences, but struggle with others!

  106. Cate says...

    I think the answer to video games long term – post Covid( it will happen!) is involvement in other activities. We always did an athletic and an artistic or “other” activity . These programs balance out the need to be on screen all the time. We also did no video games or tv during the week – they would watch tv until they practically glowed in the dark every weekend when we first instituted this rule, but it gradually got better!
    Finances obviously play a big role in finding activities, but there are a surprising number of sliding scale or scholarship rates available from most leagues. Used equipment is also a big money saver. We were always surprised by the number of kids who had all new equipment once we moved to the USA – there is no need for that, and there is always used equipment in good condition available if you look!
    Other activities included music, art, acting classes and school activities like the play or choir. Again there are lots of low cost option’s available if you look and crafts, art supplies and putting on plays at home or making a movie are also less expensive options.
    The goal is a well rounded kiddo if one keeps in mind the idea of balance overall it is less distressing when any activity including video games become an obsession for a period of time. Remember the days last forever, but the years fly by!
    The above makes it sound like no sweat, but ,of course, trying to get it right in actuality made me nearly crazy when my kiddos were growing up!

  107. Emily says...

    So important not to judge other people’s choices around this issue, especially during this surreal situation. We have three kids and refused to get gaming systems until our oldest was in high school. At that point, for us, it became a safe, fun way for him to socialize with his friends, at our house. Now I look back and think it also gave him time to become an avid reader and develop other hobbies and skills. Interestingly, it was an ongoing source of tension with other parents when we did not use games in our home, even though we never thought poorly of them for making other choices.

  108. liz says...

    Not a parent (yet, maybe?) but questions like this and similar questions regarding screen time and social media and raising children really scare me! Everyone’s different approaches all seem to be reasonable/make sense but vary significantly, and the statistics are showing such increases in depression /suicide and other social (or antisocial) issues in young people, correlating strongly with the rise of social media usage. I understand correlation is not causation, but I do think it is corroborated by other evidence. I guess what I’m trying to say is this issue doesn’t seem to be one of those things where whatever works best for your family/feels right is necessarily right answer… Anyway, don’t mean to vomit my anxieties here, but really interested in seeing folks thoughts on this

    • Rachel says...

      I hear you. The world is literally on fire and contagious though. Children and teens know what is happening. I think to say that their levels of anxiety and depression are because of screen time and not the realities of the world feels very off to me.

    • liz says...

      I’m not saying there is nothing in the world to be anxious about at all, but the sharp increase started a little over a decade ago around, and the statistics continue to rise sharply. I can find some citations, including here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7392374/ and here: https://childmind.org/article/is-social-media-use-causing-depression/, but for a more informal discussion, it’s directly addressed in the documentary “The Social Dilemma”.
      If you do a quick google search there is a lot of discussion about social media causing anti social behavior (teens not going out and interacting with each other like they used to, not dating, not having sex, not driving, substantial increase in risk aversion and decrease in self esteem etc (obviously not saying that they should be jumping off cliffs or having sex all the time, but the trends in general all point to increasing isolation)) and depression.

    • liz says...

      But I also suppose access to 24/7 news in such a terribly shocking world these days is also contributing, but I associate that with screen time + social media

  109. Ann says...

    I worry a bit about how to handle video games with my 4-year-old. My husband enjoys video games, and although he doesn’t play on his own very often, he is excited to share them with our daughter. Right now, this means she sits on his lap and they play Mario together, discussing what strategies to take and reading aloud the messages that pop up on the screen. They might play for an hour one day and then not at all for the next two or three days. In this format, it feels like a harmless pastime, and one that is definitely a bonding experience for the two of them. I wonder, though, what the years ahead will hold when she’s able to play on her own. It’s great to hear that people have had success setting limits!

    • Roxana says...

      What you describe sounds healthy to me. If anything, you/your husband are modeling a healthy use of video games. Plus, it’s a social activity for her (she spends time on daddy’s lap playing a game). which is even better! Of course, we don’t know what turns are on the road ahead, but as of now, I think you’re handling it well!

      We didn’t do any games with our kids until my son (now 9) discovered them through his friends. I wonder if he wouldn’t be so obsessed with video games, if we’d have already been playing them and they’d have been demystified a bit for him. Live and learn!

  110. Shelley says...

    My boys are ages 19 months and 3. Even though we really don’t have much tv time per day (about 30 min) I do notice if we go two or so days without any tv shows their imaginations work better and they have less tantrums. If they start to whine for the tv too much I cut it out completely for a bit and every time I’m amazed at how much better things go.

  111. Roxana says...

    Oh, man! Have definitely had a similar experiences! I struggle so much with screen time, in part because it provides me a break. I’d be lying if I said it was all about the kids. It can be nice when they’re quite and zoned-out for a bit. But we always seem to “pay the price” later one.

    I’ve noticed a few things:

    1. My older two kids (aged 9 and 7) seem to be much more chill without cartoons and video games, but there is always a rough “detox” period. Seriously, it’s like an addict working through withdrawal (not to minimize true addiction). They fuss and complain and are impossible for a bit (a few hours?) and then they suddenly re-discover their 80 million toys, they become creative, they play together (not perfectly), and they’re generally more pleasant to be around.

    2. They do way better with school (we homeschool and always have) when they have no screen time. I notice that they pick-up concepts more easily and are able to focus better. My son, who has dyslexia, does way better with his reading.

    3. The quality of the programming seems to make a difference. If they do get screen time and watch a slower-paced old-school show like Mr. Rogers or a cooking show (they loved Sugar Rush on Netflix) or Dr. Pol, etc. or Alaska: The Last Frontier, they are way more chill than if they watch something like Ninjago. I once read that many cartoons trigger the emotional cortext of the brain (the pace of the show, like commercials, sort of bypasses your ability to think clearly, which can then get you kind of addicted). Kids’ executive function in the frontal lobe (their ability to manage themselves, time, etc.) then diminishes. I’m no neuro-scientist, but I think I’ve seen this play-out anecdotally.

    4. I need to be the enforcer. Making the decisions and sticking to it is hard, especially when they’re so badly wanting to play or watch, and when (admittedly) it’s fun. Anyway, when I commit to “no video games” or “no cartoons.” We all do better. They’re chill and I have a better handle on our household. They don’t flip out as much if I say “no” to a third cookie or something.

    5. Audio books for kids can be a live-saver if you’re doing no cartoons. My kids will sit for HOURS (if we let them) listening to audio books and building Legos. Actually, they’re really into new music right now. My 9 year old is obsessed with Steve Miller Band. Ha!

    • Roxana says...

      Yikes! Sorry about all the typos!

  112. Sarah Gordon says...

    To my mind, you’ve just made an ironclad case (a beautiful, heartwarming, positive and, yes, surprising-to-you case) in favor of continuing the “ban.” But *I* would figure out how to reframe the subject for *your* family and replace the word “ban.” Perhaps something along the lines of, we now know better, we’ve learned something new/surprising about our family, now we’ll do better (or different). I really love “watching” you parent your little people!

  113. Jeannine says...

    I know this isn’t a favorable opinion, but I also use their screen time as a break for myself. After being so engaged and verbal on a million zoom calls for work, I feel like I wouldn’t be as generous as you (when at 6:30 even a walk seems exhausting).

    Again, not proud of this, but I admire your ability to rally and really be present. Something I struggle with.

    • Roxana says...

      Oh, you’re totally not alone! I definitely let them watch because I need a break from them. We can all only do so much!

    • K says...

      I think so many people are in the same boat as you! Nothing to be ashamed of – we’re all doing our best and it sounds like you’re doing a great job.

    • Andrea says...

      We did zero screen time pre-Covid, but I honestly wouldn’t know how to catch a break without it now. I feel so guilty, and feel so much empathy for all of us out there who are just at our outer limits right now. Including the cooped up kiddos.

    • Alex Pearl says...

      I only let my kids watch when I need a break. You’re not alone. If I don’t need a break, they don’t get it :)

  114. Meg says...

    Saw a great YouTube video on this by Clifford Sussman MD
    – no more than one hour high dopamine activity or hda (gaming) at a time
    – follow each high dopamine activity with equal parts low dopamine activity
    Apparently the brains’ joy receptors can become intolerant to the dopamine it too much HDA

    I have 13 & 11 yo boys so hard. Gaming keeps them social during all this but man a real change of personality

    • katie says...

      Thanks, Meg. I’m going to look for this video. I’m having a hard time with limiting screen time and it’s a constant source of guilt/stress for me. My sons love video games, YouTube, and Netflix. I feel like they’ll play with toys, color, play board games, etc. if my husband or I will play with them, but if we leave them to their own devices, they only play for a little bit and then ask to get back on screens. I just get worn down, plus I’m working full time, taking care of the house, etc. I feel like we’ve gotten into some bad habits, but I’m having a difficult time figuring out appropriate and realistic limits.

    • Katie says...

      Hi Meg, Coming back to comment that I found the video and it was so helpful and very doable. Thanks so much!

  115. Katie says...

    We were nervous when our 4th grader wanted to start playing Minecraft, so we agreed on a ‘one week on, one week off’ plan. It’s worked out great! The first week was intense but then she put it away with no problem, and when she came back to it, it felt less feverish. We also instituted ‘screen free Sunday’ in our house to balance out all the screentime with distance learning. I participate too, and my girls love busting me when they catch me on my phone. It’s been a win for all of us — we’re outside more and plan our weekends a bit more intentionally to spend Sunday’s out of the house, having adventures.

  116. SP says...

    I love this, Rue! I don’t have kids but I love the idea of adding something for myself, ha. Thanks for sharing!

  117. GB says...

    So many sides to this one! We are fairly strict – no TV during the week (almost 5 yo and 2 yo), Saturday AM for an hour or so, then Sunday movie night. No ipad, no playing on phones, etc. Honestly, when we set that expectation it was pretty easy. Kids rarely ask because they know the answer. And, if they, we just say not today, but what movie should we watch Sunday?

    If there is a college football game on or the Braves we will have that on on the weekends but neither kid watches is closely.

    During the roughest point in the pandemic (both full-time attorneys, no family support, no childcare), we allowed 30 minutes for my oldest after we put younger one down for nap. But phased that out once childcare came back. I also recognize that I am in a two parent household where both parents share the burden equally (if not more by my husband) and luckily have a large backyard despite living inside the Atlanta perimeter.

    We may loosen as kids get older, but I was only allowed 30-60 minutes growing up so I doubt we will loosen too much. I also think we will be the crazy parents that don’t allow their child to have a phone with internet until they are much older.

    But I do think this is super personal decision and not all children react the same to screen time. It can, to some extent, be an escape that many need.

  118. Samantha says...

    Would it be possible to change up game time to be family game time and find something you can all play together? And change their morning/evening hour to “personal time” to read/draw/anything other than games?

  119. Raphaelle says...

    Oh god, I’m in the exact same situation! Except I started with a month without videogames, and added a day for each “offense”. So everytime my 7yr old was rude , screamed, etc, i added a day to the punishment. We got up to 3 months, 3 weeks, and 5 days. The count down started on August 5 and it’s been a blessing. I HATE having to manage time on videogames and youtube. It’s the first thing he asked me in the morning “when can I play” and he was always trying to negotiate for more. I only allowed 1hr a day on the weekend and 20 min. in the evenings after school. But during the pandemic and schools being out this last spring and summer, he had an hour a day everyday. I had already decided that there would be zero video games in weeknights when school started back in September, but with the punishment we have been at 0 hour since August. With homework and piano, playing outside for physical activity, and dinner time, etc, there just isn’t room for video games on weeknights in my opinion. He can watch 1 episode of an educational show like the Wild Kratts (about 20 min). I can see how video games are addictive. After he was done playing, life was just “waiting until I can play again”, and I hated that. Now that he hasn’t played in 2.5 months, our quality of life is so much better. He spends so much time playing outside, crafting, playing board games, writing songs, reading.. He’s an only child so it’s easy to have screens play the role of babysitter but I’ve always been extra cautious to not fall into that trap. That means I have to spend A LOT of time playing with him and talking to him, but I love that. It allowed us to be extra close and form a very tight bond, where we can talk about anything. I dread the end of the ban, and I’ll have to find solutions to manage that better.

  120. Lisa says...

    Our kids are smaller (2 and 4). Pre pandemic we were very strict – no videos. The only exception was on flights which worked really well, as they were so absorbed we didn’t hear a word out of them. But the pandemic upset that all – with my husband and I working from home and the kids off nursery, we had to relent. We’re now trying to claw it back.

    There are good and bad sides – there are a lot of educational shows and they have learned a lot. We went to the natural history museum and my son pointed out a whale shark, having learned about it from Octonauts. And, to be honest it’s nice having something for them to do that will guarantee 20 minutes of calm.
    But, they get really cranky when it’s switched off.

    We are down to two videos a day which is good.

    My cousin had little / no screen time for her kids for years and it worked really well, they could keep themselves entertained and they are now in their late teens and delightful. The only time they relented was when the boy was around 13/14 and they started allowing up to two hours of video games a night. All his friends were dojng it and it was difficult socially if he didn’t

  121. Chrissie says...

    Is he asking for them back? If he doesn’t mention it I wouldn’t either!

  122. JRay says...

    I have an almost 4 and almost 6 year old and we haven’t really set limits on screen time in a traditionally scheduled sense. They are old enough to work the over-the-air tv remote (not the Roku) so it’s been interesting to see when they want to watch tv.

    However, we severely limit what they watch…anything on PBS kids/Qubo, and maybe 3-5 shows on Netflix. As a result, they have seen literally every episode of most shows like 3 times. So they aren’t really WATCHING tv, they are playing and a super familiar story is on in the background. It’s weird, but then they are not as sucked in as they would with new content. They absorb more vocabulary that way too bc they basically memorize the shows. We’ve started shows that are top-notch but I feel they will appreciate more once they are older…like SPIRIT the horse one. Great show but why waste it on a 4 year old? What will she have left when she’s 7? No need to rush a young kid into older content.

    We watch kids movies as a fam once in a blue moon–I don’t want to rush it because when I was a kid you had to wait a long time before a new movie came out, it seemed. Every night we do music videos on YouTube–everyone gets 2 picks. They have no access to phones, computers, tablets. I actually am addicted to my phone bc of Pokemon Go and I let them play that while waiting at restaurants, etc.

    One way I can tell if they are too into something is if they don’t want to go for a walk with me. If the answer is yes, SWEET! If the answer is no…turn the tv off bc you are going anyways!! Those Pokemon aren’t gonna catch themselves!!!!

  123. agnes says...

    ALL of my friends, relatives, parents I know have problems with their children and screens; they’re stuck and don’t know what to do and it is a problem for all of them. We don’t have these problems because we have no screen. It’s not a radical decision, it’s a cultural choice. We do have 2 computers, our 7 y old watches 20 minutes of cartoons a day; no video games, only an app on the phone to brush teeth; of course our son plays video games and has screen time at friends’ and that’s okay. He reads constantly and sleeps peacefully. Doctors (in France at least) are very clear on the topic, screens are not good. It feels empowering to make healthy choices, if you’re convinced, your kids will be.

  124. Justine says...

    I think this really depends on your child. Mine has always had unfettered access to screens, but he is great at self-regulating. He switches between playing video games, watching other people play video games on sites like Twitch, watching documentaries about obscure geopolitical issues, and reading actual books. Playing video games at an early age actually spurred his love of reading – he was playing a Narnia video game and realised that it was based on a book, so he read it and that was the beginning of a reading love affair for him.

    There is no doubt in my mind though, that in an ideal world, everyone in my household (myself included) would spend less time in front of screens and more time actively participating in the actual world around us. I spend about 80% of my day in front of screens, between work and personal use (that is quite embarrassing to admit in my external voice). I do love that my son (now 16) frequently interrupts me during his screen time to share an interesting fact that he’s learned, something funny he’s watching, or something he thinks is really cool, or really stupid.

  125. mary hayes says...

    Ahhhhhh this is freaking me out. My husband loves video games and I have a few adult friends who love as well, and they all encouraged me to cave to my 6yo’s request for a Nintendo switch for Xmas. So we got one. We’ll probably be pretty strict with daily time limits (she gets 30 min of youtube and i’m thinking 45 for games since they take a bit longer?). But gah. I so know what you mean. The more youtube my kid has the less she reads, adn I also dont understand the video game as a lifelong book nerd. Why would I want to play video games when I could read or knit? I’m basically 90. But, the times they are a changing!!

  126. shade says...

    A few months ago our 7 year old started behaving nuts after playing video games. We decided to put him on a screen detox and I really don’t want to go back . We recently introduced a 30 minute tv show back into his daily life but that’s it. It’s def hard though since his friends are all playing games.

  127. Ash Burke says...

    I was the worst most of the summer letting our 8yr daughter just spend the day on a screen. We started homeschool and I started checking time. She got 47 hours one week! I had lost my mind and control and my daughter. She now gets 2hrs on Saturday and Sunday only, it is not even a reward during the week. She has now read more books and learned to ride her bike!

  128. Elise says...

    During the pandemic, I feel like it’s been so easy to revert to screens when I need the kids to be quiet for a few minutes while I have a meeting or phone call. It can be so hard to cut back on screen time because it’s just so convenient! I’ve known for a while that I need to wean the kids off a bit, but it seems daunting for some reason. This post was a good reminder for me about how much it really can affect my kids’ temperaments. Maybe it’ll be just the push I need (fingers crossed)!

  129. Em says...

    This is really not the right time to worry about screen time. Of course our kids are better off with less screen time, but we need to work (and are grateful for our jobs during this time). As some said below, this is a throw away year. We’re just surviving. No one should feel any guilt about this.

    • Anna Si says...

      Very wise words! 👍

    • Emily says...

      so true.

    • M says...

      Yes!!!!

    • Amy says...

      Agreed!

  130. Lila says...

    I feel so mixed about this! We were previously pretty strict on screentime (2 shows/day on weekends) but during the pandemic it got shifted to 3 shows/day as we were juggling no childcare/working full-time. I don’t love it, but my kids are also super high energy during the day and it can be nice to relax on the couch. Also, they watch 2 of the shows while we make dinner, which is a real help. We still have “weekend shows” (ex. PJ Masks) vs. “weekday” shows (PBS Kids), which is our small way of trying to ensure a little mindfulness…

    As a kid, my own show-watching was pretty restricted and I was definitely left behind in terms of pop-culture knowledge at school…#notthecoolkid

  131. Taylor says...

    I’m soooooo excited to read all these comments. My husband and I have a three month old and we love video games! We don’t like shooter-murder-kill people games, but we love open world RPGs. I had never played a video game until my husband and I started dating, and some of my experiences playing video games rival seeing my favorite movie for the first time. My favorite game is Horizon Zero Dawn (a beautiful female-led game with an amazing sci-fi and environmentalist story with NO ROMANCE PLOT!!) and I genuinely am looking forward to when my daughter will play it when she’s older!! The same way I look forward to her reading Agatha Christie for the first time, or seeing her first concert.

    What type of games is Anton playing? I don’t think if the game is stimulating and engaging and kind that it’s any different than looking forward to a new episode of a tv show you’re really into every night!

    • J. says...

      ❤️ High Fives all around for this pro video game comment

  132. Sara says...

    My 7&8 year old have no screen time (TV/tablets/video games) during the week. On the weekends we watch a movie together as a family each night. It’s how I grew up and I’m holding firm to it as long as I can :)

  133. Ashleigh Wilson says...

    I support a complete ban in your home. They can play videogames at friends houses when they visit as much as they want. I’ve never read a report or heard a single compelling argument showing a benefit of videogames on young minds. Trust your gut.

    • Hilary says...

      Curious about how you handle what they are exposed to in others’ homes, particularly when you ban it altogether in your own and their curious mind may look to find things because they are banned? No judgement, just wondering.

  134. Kate says...

    Totally with you, Kiki! I have definitely seen kids “self-limit” like this and I think it’s a great skill.

  135. elinor says...

    I don’t have kids, but my parents had a fairly strict “no video game” policy when I was younger. My partner played a lot of video games when he was young, and he thinks they really really helped his spatial reasoning! I see it too – he has a great natural sense of direction. This is just to say, I think it makes sense to limit screen time, but I also think there are also a lot of great benefits to occasional video game playing.

    • Emily says...

      That’s interesting that video games helped with sense of direction for your partner. I never played video games but also have a great sense of direction. I think that really shows just how different all of us are and what is good for some of us isn’t great for others.

  136. Naomi says...

    Not all screen time is created equal. We have a “no-video-games during the week, 2 hrs of gaming with friends over the internet on Saturday and 30 min on Sunday” rule. We have a very avid reader, and she can use the iPad to read books on Kindle, Libby or similar (we also have a subscription to Epic!) for a few hours each day. She also has to balance iPad reading with “real” book reading… Pre-COVID, I wouldn’t have let her read on a screen for that long – ever! But I have decided that at least she’s reading… and I (we all) have bigger battles doing on.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, great call. and I think video games are very different from movies/TV, which feel more social and also slower paced.

    • Courtney says...

      I love this breakdown! I am personally conflicted about reading on a screen vs. a real book, especially when our libraries our closed. Curious how others feel about it.

  137. Kate says...

    I love your perspective, Joanna! I just want to say that, as you know, kids are changing ALL THE TIME and correlation is not causation. :) Anton’s personality explosion might have been unrelated to the lack of screen time, tbh.
    My general thought on screen time is that parents should chill out about it and give themselves a break. In my own small sample of kids I know (I am a parent, and an education researcher), kids who have relatively free access to screens are able to manage their own time with it pretty well, and show satiation with screen time pretty quickly and healthily. When kids have tight limits, I’ve observed that they can become kind of obsessed with accessing screens whenever they can, sometimes sneakily!
    I gotta say, taking an approach sort of like intuitive eating to screen time seems to make sense in my world.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      this is really interesting — thank you, Kate!

    • Justine says...

      Kate – I agree with you on this – from my observations of my own child (not a great sample size, I know!) and my experience as a child growing up in a home where screens were banned (no tv in the house at all). I was THE WORST guest at any house with a tv; I’d binge watch as long as I was allowed because it was forbidden fruit.

    • K says...

      That IS very interesting Kate… I’d love to read some more studies on this. I have some family members’ children who are absolutely obsessed with videogames… they could play it literally all day if left to their own devices. And hence their parents have to put strict parameters on their time limits… but maybe it was BECAUSE of the strict limits that caused them to be so obsessed?!? For me personally, I sometimes can get so caught up in fantasy RPGs, that if I didn’t control myself I could really blow hours and hours on it. My husband has that problem too, so I know we both agreed that we’d have some rules in place for screen-time when we have kids. But I’d love to look into this more when/if we have kids then.

    • Kara says...

      (My caveat to my comment is this is for ideal scenarios, like when we’re not in a global pandemic!)

      I’m a dietitian, and reflecting on Joanna’s thoughts got me thinking about how it compares to feeding kids, too! It makes sense that over-restricting would lead to overdoing it in that it makes it more enticing or it becomes something they think about more because of the restriction. And it also makes sense that some kids will have a harder time at self regulation no matter the scenario. I wonder if following what works for successful eating with kids would work with screens. With food what helps is: a regular, predictable schedule, sitting down to eat as a family, and the caregiver decides what will be served while the kids decide how much to eat (which can include eating none of it); if you have a picky eater you always include something they are comfortable with that they can fill up on. It’s also important as the caregiver to be relaxed, even if it stresses you out, and to be neutral about what’s happening…like to not place value judgments on particular foods.

      Maybe for screens this means: a predictable schedule, the caregiver is at least nearby for occasional interaction or at most is watching/playing with the kid, and the caregiver has a few things the kid can select from to watch or play, which includes a known favorite.

      Like food, having conversations around how screens make you feel every so often seems like a great idea, so kids learn to listen to their bodies in that way. I might tell my kids “broccoli makes me gassy, so I have to be careful not to eat too much even though I love it so I don’t get a belly ache.” We could do the same with what we’re watching or playing online.

      Finally my personal anecdote re: Kate’s experience is that mine was the opposite and I had zero restrictions around TV as a kid and I still loved watching it at friend’s houses haha. I find myself easily overdoing it even as an adult. Which makes me think that the best is something in the middle.

    • Kara says...

      Shoot, I meant in re: to Justine’s experience!

    • Nicki says...

      I like this approach – and the comparison to “intuitive eating”. I also grew up in a household where there were no limits on watching TV , and no one ever watched much or played many video games. TV was not used as a reward or punishment, it was value neutral. Meanwhile our neighbors (who had no TV) always begged us to turn it on when they came over. I’m sure privilege plays a factor, as others have commented – I grew up with several siblings in a very safe European city, where even young children can easily entertain themselves playing with neighbors in the street. But I’d also like to think that kids can make smart choices when given the opportunity.

      My own kids are four and six, and TV is also a relatively neutral activity in our house. We’ve never offered them much screen time/TV, and they’ve also never really asked for it. I absolutely used Netflix as a babysitter in March and April when I was in lockdown with them all by myself, working from home in a demanding new job. They were happy to discover new shows, but didn’t appear to miss them when we stopped. Now that we are largely back to a more normal schedule (I’m still working from home, but kids are back at school/regular child care), we have reverted to our pre-COVID approach of building TV into their daily routine: they watch a show while parents are prepping dinner, and then turn off the TV on their own when the show finishes, because they know it’s time to eat. Friday night is pizza and movie night, and weekend mornings they can watch cartoons if they want (more for our sake than theirs). Sometimes they prefer to play than watch, or the little one wanders off to do something else halfway through.

      I have no doubt I’ll question all of this again when they get older and start asking for smart phones…

    • BlueAlma says...

      This is interesting, Kate, but I wonder if it’s accurate to call it an “intuitive eating model.“ At least on Satter’s model, some foods that are highly desirable and low in nutritional value should be limited, for the most part. So with cookies, you might offer two with dinner—but not usually offer an unlimited amount. On rare occasions, you would offer all the cookies a kid could eat, so they know there is enough and so they don’t feel like cookies are some forbidden thing.

      That makes me think an intuitive model would be something like: offer screens in a limited amount at set times, and then occasionally (birthdays! Christmas! Mom needs a nap!) offer a chance to explore them with almost no limit.

      Just my two cents. :)

  138. Carolyn says...

    Way to go, mama!! My kids are only 2 and 10 months, so my experience is very different. We actually don’t own a TV and they don’t use any screens during the day. I got turned off to screens when I was a teacher and found that screens were a way of calming down kids rather than talking with them or weathering the storm in a bad moment. It made me wonder why we use them. Are we afraid of tantrums? Are we afraid of allowing our kids to feel their feelings? Am I only afraid of what people thing when my kid is melting down? I always find that my 2 yo will find something super creative to do with her time if I hold out long enough. I want her to learn how to be bored and as a result is always surprising me with the new ways she uses the things in the house.

  139. Sam says...

    A million times yes! This is something we struggle with for our 6 yr old. He loves video games — it’s literally the first thing he thinks of in the AM. And with virtual learning right now, he’s in front of a screen even longer. He’s so much more agreeable and interactive when we limit screen time.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Anton was getting to addicted, I realize now in hindsight. He would talk about video games all the time, and he even started picking up slang from video game youtubers — like calling me “bro!” haha

  140. Rachel says...

    I was homeschooled, and grew up without screens until we got a VCR at age 16. I think screen-free life really helps young children’s imaginations explode! Obviously it’s an adjustment, and especially challenging right now but the benefits in kids imaginations is priceless. If you can afford it, investing in creative supplies like blocks, art supplies, and crafting is a big help too! Go for it! :)

  141. Calla says...

    I don’t have kids but growing up (in the 90s/2000s) we had a single family desktop and each of the three of us were allowed 30 minutes a day, enforced by a kitchen timer, and there was no TV on weekdays. It worked great for us (granted we lived in the suburbs so had easy access to a yard to play in) but I often wonder how parents do it now. At the time we never had homework assignments online, and smartphones were not around (or deemed necessary for kids and pre-teens) so it was relatively easy to set up a binary system like that. I imagine it’s much more complicated now.

  142. kiki says...

    Confession time here: we hit a rough spot in the pandemic and didn’t put ANY limits on screen time for our 7yo. It was out way coping with no help, no social interaction, and two parents working from home full time with pretty stressful / demanding jobs. IT HAPPENED. But, now that we’re on the other side of it, our son is so sick of screens, he self limits! He gets bored quickly and now often opts to play by himself. It certainly wasn’t the best way to get there…maybe it’s a bit like overeating on something sweet, getting sick, and then never wanting that thing again. LOL. I’m not saying screen marathons will never happen again, I’m sure they will. But, I’m also glad that we’ve found a bit of balance. Precarious as that might be, I’m clinging to it for now :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      wow, that’s so interesting to hear!

  143. Rue says...

    I feel like I see a similar shift in myself as an adult when I reduce my screen time! For me what helps the most is thinking of what good things I’m adding INTO my day, that naturally limit or reduce my screen time. I got into a habit of spending lots of time on my phone in the morning, so rather than saying, “no screens before 11am” or whatever, I’ve decided to include 10-15 min of physical activity every weekday morning. Not focused on intense exercise, just focused on moving my body before I start my work day. Now I know based on what time I generally wake up, that I can only stare at my phone for a shorter amount of time, if I want to also do 10 min of yoga. And once I tried the 10 min of activity thing just two days in a row, and saw how much better it made my whole day, I’ve been looking forward to it and just naturally think, “okay, about 15 min of phone time, and I’ll set the kitchen timer so I know when to get changed for a run around the block.”

    I’m not a parent, but I can imagine this applying to kids too! Maybe asking Anton what his favorite no-screens new ritual has become, or a favorite time of day where he got to do stuff with you instead, and then plan that into his day as a positive thing, rather than setting up a specific “no screens” negative rule? Or combining it, like, “screen time is now an hour per day, because we’re going to do adventure walks every school day.”

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      I love this approach of adding something instead of just taking it away. And I agree that my own mind is so much calmer if I read or take a walk instead of stare at a screen.

    • courtney says...

      Rue, I feel like you can see my life! I also make myself move before say, reading the news on my phone or answering ‘quick’ emails. I just stretch and go for a little morning walk, but it is such a nice start to the day. Funny how, even though staring at a screen feels much ickier, it’s easy to get into that habit, if allowed. I was also reading this piece in relation to myself, as I don’t have kids, but often wonder where the line is drawn between enriching screen/phone time, like articles and podcasts, and when I need to stop taking in media and be quiet and/or creative.

  144. M says...

    We have a pretty flexible policy, but it works well as we only have a toddler. We generally don’t do much screen time at all – they get about 10 – 15 mins in the morning when I’m getting dressed, and then we see how the day goes. A lot of the time there’s no more screen time or just another 10 min window somewhere. If I have a meeting or desperately need to get something done, or one (or both of us) are under the weather, then it might stretch up to an hour depending on the situation. We try not to make a big deal out of it whether they get it or not. It’s worked so far!

    • Erica says...

      This is where we are with our 15 mo old. We do Sesame Street Sundays where we watch some Sesame street before dinner on Sundays….and frankly he doesnt really care. We always make sure to only watch it on the TV, so he doesnt associate it with our phones or laptop. To him, laptop means Mimi and Papa time (bc we Facetime with them there) and our photos mean pictures of himself. When he gets a hold of our phone, I say “oh thank you for finding that! so helpful!” and take it from him rather than saying “No no, thats not for you” bc a) then it becomes a forbidden item (read: MUST GET IT) and b) toddlers inherently want to be helpful (despite how it seems sometimes) so he gets so proud of himself when handing it over.

      Trying to ride the limited screens train as long as possible bc it’s frankly better for me too!

  145. Hilary says...

    Oh man…this is such a fraught topic between parents right now! It also gets tangled up in questions of privilege and equity, it feels like? I’m a cis-gender white mom in the burbs. My husband is an equal partner to me and we have help in the form of my parents. We can afford (for lack of a better term) to be strict about screens at our house because we have a lot of resources to keep our kiddo occupied without them. I know that’s not the case for everyone.

    That all said…we are strict about screen time! I don’t even think my daughter knows what that phrase is because sometimes she gets to watch TV (usually Sesame Street and usually in the morning so we can drink coffee and shower without interruption) and sometimes she doesn’t. We have tried really hard not to fetishize it and make it more or less than it is. We don’t use it as a carrot or a stick. And we almost always do a Sunday Night Movie where we watch a Disney classic or a Pixar film as a family, so it’s not a rarity either. I have such fond memories of doing that with my family and the right kind of media can really spark imagination and creativity, especially when parents are involved.

    My daughter is 3.5 and she has friends and cousins who have ipads and unrestricted access and I’ve observed that those kids are definitely the moodier, more volatile, less emotionally regulated kids in our circle. Big tantrums, usually over screen time! Which has confirmed for me that our approach really works for our family right now. And no matter how much my daughter would like an ipad…it’s not happening :)

    • Emily says...

      Thank you for bringing up how this issue brings up questions of privilege and equity. I don’t think that’s nearly discussed enough, especially now in the States with COVID-19. I think that’s something we need to be mindful of as well.

    • K says...

      :) I have fond memories of movie nights too from my childhood. I like the approach of not “fetishizing” screen time, but look forward to having a weekly “movie night” with Disney, Pixar, Myazaki classics and pizza with my kids too!

    • Chayary says...

      I think it’s a little bit more complicated than kids with more screen time has worse behavior or whatever. I have six kids. Kids #1-4, we were pretty strict about screen time, it was really an occasional treat. Kid 5 was born….challenging. He is beyond a shadow of a doubt the most impulsive and emotionally volatile of all of my kids (also really cute for the record). He is a screen addict –nothing makes him happier than a screen, and he is very
      ….. persistent… so he has a lot more screen time than any of his siblings..and while for sure the screen time doesn’t help, it isn’t just the screen time causing his behavior, his behavior invites more screen time– our need for a way to calm him, and his ….persistence …in seeking screens that make him have more screen time than his siblings. It goes both directions. And his younger sister, who is super chill personality-wise, thanks to the pandemic and being youngest definitely gets more than the oldest kids got, but nothing like he does, nor does it affect her the same way.
      (By the way we are aware that using a screen for soothing and distracting purposes is obviously not the best tool that we have, but just being honest here, sometimes it is a very effective one. No shame in that)

  146. With a 16yo who’s into sci-fi, there are definitely games around. We managed to delay gaming until 4th grade, but it’s amazing how quickly screen time has changed for kids even since mine was a little one. At this point with a 16yo we do still enforce a few things: academics & exercise first, screen-free dinner & family hang out time in the evening, a screen bedtime, no screens in the bedroom overnight (charging elsewhere).

    We constantly talk about our tech use—when the gaming or internet use is affecting our moods or WHAT KINDS of games are leading him to more frustration or aggression than fun. We do also take breaks to reset when it’s crept up too much. It’s not considered punishment, but a reminder to our kid (and ourselves) that the internet has a lot of power, and we need quiet time to listen to our best selves.

  147. Katie says...

    We’ve just taken them away during the week. The kids want to hang out more now. After my daughter’s soccer game, they wanted to stop by the burger place (you can sit at a table outside while you wait on your to go order and eat there if you like. It’s very socially distanced.) They wanted to eat their to-go orders there and we played story start. Normally they’d be trying to get home to get on screens. It’s just one of many changes we noticed. They’re so much more pleasant. I had no idea how bad an hour a day was for them.

  148. celeste says...

    I think your limits are perfectly fine. I don’t have limits for my 10 and 12-year-old and they can get to be total monsters. When grounded or banned, their personalities get better too. The reason I don’t have limits is that when they are not playing video games or doing schoolwork, I am bombarded with “What can I dooo” and as a working mom I can only hear that so much. It’s like they’re lost the ability to self-entertain.

    I think this is just a “throwaway” year and am giving myself grace. When they are virtually schooling, video games are also some of the only times they see their friends. When we all have a vaccine, they’ll be on to their sports teams and friends over and babysitting and getting their first jobs.

    • Ad says...

      I was a “what can I dooo” child!
      That is, until I went to spend the summer with my amazing, albeit very busy grandmother. The answer was always a chore of sorts (you can wash up! You can dust your room! You can swipe the kitchen floor! You can go and feed the rabbits!). No one has ever learned to entertain themselves as me that year!

  149. Danielle says...

    Oh gosh, I am right there with you! I notice such a difference with both of my kids when they’re banned from video games! It’s such a hard call because I don’t want to take away something they enjoy, but I can see the effects firsthand on their little minds. Not to mention this is often their only source of socialization during this crazy time and I sure don’t want to take that away either. When you find the magic solution, I’m all ears!

  150. a.n. says...

    i’m always kind of shocked at how so many parents (moms, especially?) are super strict around “screen time”. my mom moved my brother and i to the states from mexico when i was 3 and my brother was 6. we spoke only spanish and watching cartoons in the states was what taught us another language – we literally learned a second language from tv.
    so, i’m not too strict at all on my kids (6 yrs old and almost 2 yrs old) watching tv/movies. we always make sure they move their bodies outside whenever possible, but after that? we don’t do video games at all, but they’re welcome to watch an age-appropriate movie or chill inside on a gloomy day and watch tv back to back – we’re not worried about it breaking them :)

    • Chrissie says...

      Love this! I’m watching shows in Spanish right now so I can learn! I have so many friends who learned English from tv!

    • K says...

      hah! that’s very cool.

    • a.n. says...

      good luck learning spanish, chrissie! i also think that buying kids’ books in spanish is a fantastic way to learn it because the concepts/words are generally easy :)

    • Sage says...

      Thank you for this perspective! My 2 year old gets a lot of screen time (I work from home and my husband has to go into work), and honestly I think many of those videos reinforce a lot of learning concepts. Of course we try to balance it out and everything – we read a lot, do arts and crafts outside of my work hours, etc. But he’s a smart lil boy who’s got his ABCs down, knows how to count to 10 in English and German, and is still curious about the world around him… I cannot sit here lamenting about the hours of screen time he’s getting while I work on the tasks I have to do to pay our bills.

    • C says...

      I wish I new the magic answer to this constant dilemma. It appears to be a lot about the parents attitude/reaction too. Screens really stress me out and I hate video games. I feel physically awful if I sit on a screen for too long and completely unmotivated and rather anxious if I browse Instagram and Pinterest.
      I grew up w no tv, movies etc and so have been careful about Creating balance w my kids.

      Regardless of their distinct personalities, when they get outside, interact face to face, have a moment of boredom to figure out what to do, etc. they are more motivated, more communicative and creative. Their confidence levels also soar.

      This is not to say that all that cannot come about w screens. I figure we all will do the best we can until we know better for our own families and then we adjust.

      Flexibility and communication are some of the most important aspectS of parenting to me. Trying new things out and involving your kids instead of setting arbitrary limits. And for us, focusing on what our family DOES do and not what we don’t.

      Finally, anyone out there have a YOTO player??