How to Control Our Kids’ Screen Time

I have a 9-year-old 4th grader at home who went through more than four months of “summer” break from school.  Yesterday was his first day back.  Well, home school that is.  We actually went through a broken 3 weeks of transitioning-back-to-school phase. He had to answer his previous books and pay attention to lessons. But we did not fade his screen time just yet.  During the vacation, he has 1-hour computer time and 2 hours of TV time. Although he conceded to going cold turkey on his screen time, he is currently having difficulty paying attention to details of lessons and instructions; and sustaining focus when answering worksheets.  Earlier today, it took him 25 minutes to finish a 15-item worksheet on proper and common nouns!

I feel like I need to answer the queen question of this topic.  Why do we give kids screen time in the first place?

My son was born in 2011.  I believe he is one of whom we call “Digital Natives.”  According to Investopedia, in 2001, Mark Prensky coined the term digital native. He used it to describe a generation of people who grew up in the pervasive presence of technology (computers, internet).  Technology, then, is part of their lives and they are at ease using it from a very young age. Recognizing this, I feel the need for my son to learn how to properly use the technology he grew up with.

On the other hand, being in a profession concerned with child development, I am fully aware of the harmful effects of too much and too early exposure to gadgets and screens to children.  In fact, the World Health Organization reiterated, in April 2019, with a set of guidelines that children, aged 2 or 4 should spend no more than 1 hour of sedentary screen time.  Children 1 year old or less, on the other hand, should not be given screen time at all.

boys, children, reading

Developmental Pediatricians cannot stress it enough to limit screen time, even with children 12 years and older. 

Healthmatters.nyp.org released a suggested kids’ screen time for every age range:

18 months and younger:  avoid

18 to 24 months:  total supervision when watching to explain and help understand

2 to 5 years:  1 hour per day with total supervision to explain how content can be applied to real life

6 to 12 years:  consistent limits and make sure that screen time does not impede with physical activity, sleep and other behaviors

12 years and older:  media free times together and media free locations at home

The results of disregarding the above guidelines would be regretful.

Development, including speech, movement, vision, thinking and learning skills, would be stunted. The opportunities for them to explore the world and develop a wide array of preferences would also be lost.

Having been born with visual refractive error, the son did not really appreciate the screen until he was about 5 years old.  He was introduced to cellphone use by peers, cousins and us. But we decided not to make it part of his daily, weekly or even monthly routine.  He gets to use it on very rare occasions.   We, however, watched TV shows and movies with him.  And because we were his models, his preferred TV show when he was around 6 to 7 years old was the nightly news.

It was also around 1st grade, at 6 years old, when he began asking when he can have a cellphone of his own since some of his classmates own one.

iphone, cellphone, cellular phone

We decided to give him his very own cellphone when he turned 8 years old. 

It was our birthday gift for him.  It was around the time when Momo circulated on videos in YouTube Kids and there were problems with youngsters committing suicide around the globe.  We said a very sincere prayer, braved the issues and pushed through with the son’s first cellphone ownership. 

To answer the question, we thought it was the best time to train him for responsible gadget ownership.  Along with this are other goals such as developing his behaviors and responsibility in balancing his time of usage, proper responding to virtual communication, and learning to think before he clicks.  Despite his desire for a Facebook account and a YouTube channel, we respected policies that he will be allowed to create them when he is 13 years old. We chose 8 over 12 or 13 years old, thinking, it might be too late when that time came for us to train him to use his own cellphone.

The next question is as important as the first one.  How is it going, the kids’ screen time training?

To help us track his usage, both quality and quantity, we installed Google’s Family Link app.  It was a great help. We knew his whereabouts (since it has GPS). Ably, we filtered apps he is installing (the app prompts him to ask permission from his parent either personally or through a message). Keeping track of apps he uses (it reflects percentages of his daily usage of phone apps including calendar and calculator) is a breeze. And most especially, limiting his time of use (the app locks the phone after a specified time and automatically at the set bed time).  It was really a great help, however, we seem to have been heavily dependent on it.  I think the purpose of training the son was, altogether defeated.  Each and every time that the phone locks, he would whine.  He also expresses his great wish to install apps that are rated 12+, and also even some apps that need to be purchased.

girl, taking photos, smartphone

How do we do it then?

As we went along, we felt we needed to go back to training him with a personal touch.  Being a pediatric OT, I know how BMTs (Behavior Modification Techniques) are useful in these kinds of things.  Not the first time to use it on him, we employed Token Economies.  Classic example of this technique is when you collect stickers to get the Starbucks Planner.  But instead of buying a drink, the son needs to do a chore, a worksheet or just good behavior.  Examples are finishing his lunch, making his bed, and packing away his things.  These are plotted on the calendar. If he gets 5 to 10 checks in a week, then he will get a longer time for phone use on the weekend.

My colleague, who is also a mom and a Sped teacher used the same concept. It was more like a chore market, where she assigned certain values to particular activities.  Her son will do chores and get the corresponding value (length of time in minutes) for gadget use.  Watch her teaching video here.

Switch to Response Cost

Going back to our son, we felt that it was too easy for him to collect tokens. We leveled it up and applied another behavioral technique called Response Cost. In some ways, this is the opposite of Token Economies.  We usually give him 30 minutes of phone use each day.  This time, if he did not do expected behavior such as finishing his lunch, or making his bed, then we deduct 5 from his 30 minutes.  That way, screen time is limited in the first place.  Instead of getting the opportunity to add minutes, the son needed to up his game. He needs to do what is expected of him to avoid getting time deductions.  It eliminates his complacency in doing his responsibilities.

checklist, list, check

These past few months, however, he recognized the fact that even when he cannot use his cellphone, he can play games on the computer or watch TV.  He did not need its portability. His cellphone has never been touched in the last 2 months.  He finishes his lunch but most days, his bed is unkempt.  Screen time-wise, he learned a couple of new games on the computer and he developed preferences for TV shows.  Today, he would say how much he loves watching American Ninja Warrior and Titan Games.  His favorite actor is Dwayne Johnson.  He has also completed Netflix shows like The Floor is Lava, Inbestigators and The Odd Squad.  I was actually happy for him.  Remember when he just wants to watch the news? I feel like he went up a notch in his personal development and recreational area. 

You feel the need to teach your child how to do chores first? Read How here.

But seeing how little his attention was to school work today, a familiar concept, at that, I ask, is it worth it?

I feel that there is the need for him to learn balance.  Even when his screen time was limited (3 hours in total each day), he still yielded to its addictive qualities. It has to be corrected.  I explained that his mind seemed cluttered and we need to clean it up. Today, he sadly and tearfully agreed to eliminate his TV and computer time while he frees himself from its pleasurable but enchaining sights and sounds.

Of course, the digital immigrants in our household also need to set a good example!  Luckily, he is big enough to understand that this clicking and clacking I do on the laptop is work. (*wink wink*)

70 Replies to “How to Control Our Kids’ Screen Time”

  1. I think the admin of this website is genuinely working hard in favor of his web site, for the reason that here every information is quality based material.| Jennee Nikolaus Ragouzis

  2. Hello there! This blog post could not be written any better! Looking at this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He constantly kept preaching about this. I will send this article to him. Pretty sure he will have a great read. Many thanks for sharing! Jannelle Taddeusz Ganley

  3. Having read this I thought it was really informative. I appreciate you taking the time and effort to put this content together. I once again find myself personally spending a lot of time both reading and posting comments. But so what, it was still worthwhile!

  4. I must thank you for the efforts you have put in writing this site. I am hoping to see the same high-grade content from you later on as well. In fact, your creative writing abilities has encouraged me to get my own, personal website now ;)|

  5. Nice post. I learn something totally new and challenging on blogs I stumbleupon on a daily basis. It’s always useful to read content from other authors and practice a little something from their websites.

  6. Greetings from Carolina! I’m bored at work so I decided to browse your site on my iphone during lunch break. I love the info you provide here and can’t wait to take a look when I get home. I’m shocked at how fast your blog loaded on my mobile .. I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyways, awesome blog!|

  7. Do you mind if I quote a few of your posts as long as I provide credit and sources back to your webpage?

    My blog is in the exact same niche as yours and my visitors
    would certainly benefit from a lot of the
    information you provide here. Please let me know if
    this ok with you. Thanks!

  8. Hey there just wanted to give you a quick heads up. The words in your content seem to be running off the screen in Safari. I’m not sure if this is a formatting issue or something to do with browser compatibility but I figured I’d post to let you know. The style and design look great though! Hope you get the problem solved soon. Cheers

  9. Hi there. I discovered your blog by means of Google whilst searching for a comparable matter, your web site got here up. It seems to be great. I’ve bookmarked it in my google bookmarks to visit then.

  10. After exploring a handful of the blog posts on your web site, I truly like your technique of blogging. I added it to my bookmark webpage list and will be checking back in the near future. Take a look at my website too and tell me your opinion.

  11. Nice blog right here! Also your web site so much up fast!
    What web host are you the use of? Can I am getting your associate hyperlink to your host?
    I want my site loaded up as fast as yours lol

  12. Undeniably believe that which you stated. Your favorite reason seemed to be on the net the simplest thing to be aware of. I say to you, I definitely get annoyed while people consider worries that they just do not know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top and also defined out the whole thing without having side-effects , people could take a signal. Will probably be back to get more. Thanks

  13. Hi there, I think your website could possibly be having browser compatibility problems. Whenever I look at your blog in Safari, it looks fine however, if opening in I.E., it’s got some overlapping issues. I merely wanted to provide you with a quick heads up! Apart from that, wonderful website!

  14. Aw, this was an extremely nice post. Taking the time and actual effort to make a superb articleÖ but what can I sayÖ I hesitate a lot and never seem to get anything done.

  15. You made some respectable factors there. I appeared on the internet for the difficulty and found most people will go together with along with your website.

  16. An outstanding share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a coworker who has been conducting a little research on this. And he actually ordered me lunch due to the fact that I discovered it for him… lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending the time to discuss this issue here on your internet site.

  17. Thanks for another fantastic post. The place else may just anybody get that kind of info in such a perfect manner of writing? I have a presentation subsequent week, and I am on the look for such information.

  18. I loved as much as you will receive carried out right here. The sketch is tasteful, your authored subject matter stylish. nonetheless, you command get bought an nervousness over that you wish be delivering the following. unwell unquestionably come further formerly again as exactly the same nearly very often inside case you shield this hike.

  19. I love what you guys are usually up too. Such clever work and reporting!Keep up the excellent works guys I’ve added you guys to blogroll.

  20. Hey! I know this is kinda off topic but I’d figured I’d ask.
    Would you be interested in trading links or maybe guest writing
    a blog article or vice-versa? My blog discusses a lot of the same topics as yours and I
    feel we could greatly benefit from each other.
    If you might be interested feel free to shoot me an e-mail.

    I look forward to hearing from you! Wonderful blog by the way!

  21. Greetings I am so thrilled I found your site, I really found you by mistake, while I was looking on Aol for something else, Anyways I am here now and would just like to say thanks for a tremendous post and a all round thrilling blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to read it all at the minute but I have bookmarked it and also added your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read a lot more, Please do keep up the excellent work.

  22. Great post. I was checking constantly this blog and I am impressed!
    Very helpful information particularly the last part 🙂 I care
    for such information much. I was seeking this
    certain info for a very long time. Thank you and best of luck.

  23. My blog site is in the exact same niche as yours and my users would certainly benefit from some of the information you provide here. Please let me know if this okay with you. Thanks

  24. Now here’s the big question.
    https://strekatilo294.com
    Your wish is my command.
    Examples of Aphorisms for Success
    Another example comes from Spider-Man, where Uncle Ben turns to Peter Parker and says, With great power comes great responsibility.
    Picture of Benjamin Franklin and a caption that says “Aphorist Extraordinaire”
    One of his most notable is, An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
    Skilled writers use aphorisms to evoke big ideas in a relatable way.
    And then.
    Practice what you preach.
    Proverbs, on the other hand, can be much longer than aphorisms and adages.
    It originally read, Count not they chickens that unhatched be…
    Examples of Aphorism in Film
    Picture of Benjamin Franklin and a caption that says “Aphorist Extraordinaire”
    Interestingly enough, this saying was initially intended as a compliment.
    ’Ah, all things come to those who wait,’
    You’re prepared to use these handy little sayings to make your prose more relatable.

  25. wonderful post, very informative. I’m wondering why the opposite specialists of this sector don’t realize this.
    You should continue your writing. I am confident, you’ve a great readers’ base
    already!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *