How do you set screen time limits with kids? It’s a topic parents ask us a lot — and they’re reaching out even more as life slowly returns to normal. That’s because so many parents and kids relied so heavily on their screens, that it feels impossible to course correct now.
Gloria DeGaetano has been studying the effects of screens on young brains for years. She’s the f
Why Is It Such a Challenge?
Ignoring the pandemic, screens can almost be like a drug, especially for younger kids. That’s “because of the vulnerability of the brain stem and lower brain that’s being impacted by the screens in a way a mature mind won’t be,” DeGaetno tells Parentology. This affects the child’s behavior and reaction to imposed limits. “The child starts getting aggressive and ‘
This often leaves parents and kids feeling angry and frustrated.
How Do You Best Handle It?
A gradual and cooperative approach is best, according to DeGaetano. She suggests forming a media plan.
The American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) Family Media Plan (link below) is customizable to a family’s specific needs. Cyberwise has also created a Parent/Child Technology Agreement that helps adults set boundaries and rules for using devices.
DeGaetano suggests offering alternatives like audiobooks or stories to replace screen time. These stimulate brain development because the child actively participates through their imagination.
Recommended Screen Time Limits
The AAP recommends one hour per day of high-quality screen time for children ages two to five, ideally co-viewed with the parent. This doesn’t include watching a video with the family, or FaceTime calls with grandparents.
DeGaetano agrees with AAP, but suggests parents, “Hold off as long as they can; they’ll be so happy they did.” She also cautions against handing your young child a device as a diversion, “because the younger you introduce screens, the harder it will be to pry them away.”
“There’s no reason for children eight to 12-years-old to have smartphones,” DeGaetano says. She recommends a flip phone if parents think one is necessary for safety or communication reasons.
Between the ages of 13-15 years old, she recommends assessing the maturity of the child and determining whether they can handle a smartphone and the access it allows to the internet and social media. DeGaetano’s explanation is simple: “Children don’t know how to regulate, which can be dangerous.”
Ultimately, if parents are unhappy with their family’s current screen time usage, it’s never too late to set limits and make a change. She’s seen hundreds of clients take part in her three-month coaching process to develop a plan that works for them. “They see happier, calmer kids and feel like they got their child