Some kids just want to game, but sometimes they need to use their screens for school. So how do you set healthy screen-time limits during the school year?
Gaming, watching funny YouTube videos, and working on creative school projects—whether or not you like it, technology is a permanent part of kids’ lives. Finding the right balance between technology and well-being has become a paramount concern, especially during the school year.
As students gear up for another year of learning and growth, the question of how to navigate screen time takes center stage. Rather than fixating solely on rigid time limits, the key lies in prioritizing the quality of the content that occupies those screens. These healthy screen time tips will help your family foster a mindful and purposeful relationship with technology to enhance both academics and overall well-being.
How Much Time Should My Kids Spend on Their Devices?
Although it’s easier to have strict time limits, there’s no specific answer for how much time your child should spend on their screens. It all depends on what works for your child’s specific needs. And between school, extracurriculars, and entertainment, your kid could have a lot of activities requiring them being on a device.
Rather than worrying how much time your child spends on their screens, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends focusing on quality. Studies have shown that supporting kids’ technology use so that it strengthens their social, emotional, cognitive, and identity development can increase well-being better than limiting screen time.
This is especially helpful during the school year because it saves you from over-calculating how much time your child is spending on school work plus creative hobbies plus leisure pastimes. (I guarantee that getting their projects done will be far more important than how much time they spend doing it.)
How to Set Healthy Screen-Time Limits During the School Year
1. Understand the Recommended Guidelines
If you’re dead-set on having time limits, familiarize yourself with the guidelines recommended by experts. The American Academy of Pediatrics, for example, previously suggested that children aged 2 to 5 should have no more than 1 hour of screen time per day, while older children and teenagers should aim for 1 to 2 hours of high-quality content.
However, keep in mind that these are general guidelines and not strict rules. There isn’t enough evidence supporting the benefits of specific time limits, so this will just be a starting range to help your family manage your schedules. Once you have that set, you can focus on the following tips, which will help you manage the quality of your kid’s content during the school year. The key is to find a balance that works for the individual and supports their overall well-being.
2. Prioritize Responsibilities
Identify non-negotiable responsibilities such as schoolwork, homework, chores, and extracurricular activities. These should take precedence over leisure screen time.
3. Create a Schedule
Establish a daily or weekly schedule that allocates specific times for different activities, including screen time, schoolwork, physical activity, socializing, and sleep. Having a routine makes it easier to manage screen time effectively, no matter how long your child needs to be digital.
4. Monitor Content and Use Screen Time Tracking Apps
As a parent, you need to be aware of the content your child is accessing to ensure they’re absorbing good information that will help them grow. This content should be age-appropriate and align with your family values. Many devices have built-in settings that allow you to set boundaries and time limits for specific apps or categories. But if not, utilize tracking apps to monitor the content and amount of time your child spends on screens.
5. Set Specific Limits
Determine what websites, apps, games, and other digital programs that your child can use for entertainment purposes, school, or creative hobbies each day. And set time limits on leisure screen time that might be less beneficial than other educational activities or non-negotiable responsibilities. Be clear about these limits with your children, but keep in mind that even video games can have benefits.
6. Plan Screen-Free Zones
Designate certain areas of your home, such as the dining room or bedrooms, as screen-free zones. This encourages healthy boundaries between screen time and other activities.
7. Include Breaks
Integrate regular breaks from screens. Follow the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and focus on something 20 feet away. This helps reduce eye strain and encourages physical movement.
8. Encourage Outdoor Activities
Promote outdoor activities, physical exercise, and other hobbies that don’t involve screens. This balance is crucial for maintaining overall well-being, and it’s especially important when your child has already spend a lot of time on their screens.
9. Lead by Example
As a parent or guardian, model healthy screen time behavior. If children see adults adhering to screen time limits, they are more likely to follow suit.
10. Involve Your Children
If you’re setting limits for your children, involve them in the process. Explain the reasons for the limits and collaborate on creating a screen time and content plan that works for everyone.
11. Allow Flexibility for Educational Use
Recognize that screen time for educational purposes might extend beyond entertainment limits. Be flexible with allowing additional screen time for school-related activities and projects.
12. Review and Adjust Regularly
Regularly review how well the screen time limits are working. And most importantly, be willing to adjust the limits as needed based on the effectiveness and changing circumstances.
Remember, the goal isn’t to completely eliminate screen time but to find a healthy balance that supports learning, socializing, and other essential activities while minimizing the negative effects of excessive screen exposure.
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Shaelyn Topolovec earned a BA in editing and publishing from BYU, worked on several online publications, and joined the Familius family. Shae is currently an editor and copywriter who lives in California’s Central Valley.