Limiting screen time for kids is becoming more and more important as technology replaces so much of what we do
With smartphones, the average screen time your child is exposed to has likely gone up!
When we first had kids, we were going to exclude TV and screens until our kids were two years old. Then, reality hit. Sometimes, mama needs a babysitter before she loses her mind. Elmo was a great babysitter.
Screen time = Bad behavior
When we started to pay attention to how much screen time our kids were getting, we learned our sweet precious angels turned into little terrors after watching television.
It took a while to see the correlation before we started to limit screen time for our kids.
At first, we thought they were up too late to finish a movie. Then we thought, maybe their nap wasn’t long enough, or it was time for a nap, or they were hungry.
Finally, one day I realized it was the screen time. Every time my kids had screen time, they turned into holy nightmares.
In a fed up state, I banned all screen time for two entire weeks. That was a HARD punishment to keep.
Life without screens
Those two weeks without screen time were HARD and WONDERFUL. We were never big TV watchers, but having no TV made it easy to see just how much we still depended on it for entertainment.
We had to get creative with our time. Our Friday movie nights turned into game nights.
While game night is fun, teaching toddlers how to lose makes a mama want an extra glass of wine!
I learned in those two weeks that we didn’t need screen time to have fun and we’ve never looked back.
How we manage limiting screen time for our kids
Now, we have a very structured schedule for screen time.
Our two elementary aged kids get screen time twice a week. They get one movie on Friday night and two hours of cartoons on Saturday morning. That’s it.
That equates to four hours of screen time in one week.
The kids get no screen time during the school week. There are rarely exceptions made.
Set a schedule for screen times
Decide when and how long you will allow your kids to watch TV every week.
Tell your family the new schedule and stick to it. If you make exceptions, they WILL remember. You will be opening yourself up for begging and pleading for screen time you used to allow and are now trying to limit.
Allowing one agreed upon movie every week has turned into a wonderful family tradition. We make homemade pizzas and then tune in. We also skip baths!
If Friday night movie is missed for whatever reason, we do allow a reschedule on a weekend night.
Don’t give your kids screens
Don’t give your kids screens, and you will be able to easily limit screen time.
This means take the TV out of their room if there is one in there. You can probably survive on one TV in the home, in a shared area.
Kids under 12 don’t need their own cell phones. If you get them one for safety reasons, you can limit their access. Use parental controls and place the phones in a charging station when they are home.
Kids under 12 don’t need their own tablets. There, I said it. Kids will get plenty of exposure to screens while at school. They don’t need more time at home.
Kids need time to play, read, or do other creative activities when home. They don’t need a screen to entertain them.
What do the kids do after school with no screen time?
I don’t let my kids watch a show while I make dinner. They can play outside (yes, even in the freezing cold), play inside or help make dinner. They can do homework or build something.
I also let my kids be bored.
Let your kids be bored
Let your kids be bored. They will surprise you. Sure, if they are used to a ton of TV, they will whine and complain for a while. Let them. They will adjust. You will adjust. I promise.
When kids are bored, their imaginations run wild. They will build a fort, play outside, read, and pretend play. The possibilities are endless when you give them the time to actually use their minds.
TVs don’t allow a child to practice with their imaginations. Sorry. Even the educational shows don’t allow for enough learning and creativity. Nothing teaches a child like experiencing actual life.
Related post: How Fewer Toys Will Benefit Your Kids
Lead by example
We limited our kids’ television time and also limited our own screen time. Lead by example and your kids will follow.
We don’t put on the news while dinner is cooking because inevitably, they end up staring at the TV instead of playing, even if they don’t understand what’s being said.
We watch one show together at
When kids don’t see you watching television all the time, they will start to want to mirror that example, well into adulthood.
Related post: Take a Smartphone Detox
Save money and cut
When you stop watching television all the time as a family, you will realize you don’t need a crazy expensive cable bill and may join the many cord cutters.
You can save so much money by dropping cable. We have Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Prime video. While that’s probably way too much, we pay $17 a month for Hulu and Netflix. (I don’t count Amazon. We pay for it regardless!)
My kids get to watch TV that is ad-free and monitored by me. I hate television ads and the impact they have on small, impressionable minds. By cutting cable, I have a little more control over this and get to save money on my TV monthly bill!!
Related Post: Save Hundreds on Monthly Expenses
TV ads contribute to
a life of excess
When we cut TV, we didn’t realize we were severely limiting our children’s influence by advertising and marketing. When it comes to gift time, their requests are not the latest popular toys because they don’t know they exist!
Their only knowledge of toys is what they see in the store. They pick what appeals to them, but it is not because of a TV commercial. I love that.
Related post: Teaching Minimalism to Children
Cut out Y
for your ouTube child
Going back to letting your child be bored, don’t use YouTube as an entertainment option when your child is bored.
YouTube is like TV, but uncensored. Before you know it, your kid’s princess show turns into an inappropriate video made by some teen. Even with the parental controls on YouTube, blindly handing your child your phone or tablet can lead to unnecessary screen time and possible inappropriate material for your child’s age.
Limiting screen time for kids is possible
Limiting screen time for your kids seems scary when TV is your go-to form of entertainment. However, you can limit screen time for your kids fairly easily. Take it one day at a time. If you falter, start again the next day.
If it has rained for a week straight, break out a movie. Your main goal is to not let TV become your primary source of entertainment. It will be painful at first, likely for everyone involved, but you will create a new normal without TV for your kids.
Follow my Minimalism with Kids Pinterest board for more ideas on a simpler way of living!