Balancing Screen Time: A Guide for Parents

Balancing Screen Time: A Guide for Parents

Reading Balancing Screen Time: A Guide for Parents 4 minutes Next Should I Wake My Sleeping Newborn to Feed?

When I had my first son, I firmly limited his screen time on phones and tablets. He preferred playing with blocks over watching TV, running around outside instead of using a tablet, and gazing at the scenery outside the window rather than scrolling through a phone.  In theory, I knew limiting kids' use of electronics would be challenging. I often spend several hours a day on my phone or computer! However, I didn’t realize how difficult it truly was. I also had no idea that raising children would be so tough, nor did I understand how easily screens could become an escape when I had no interest in doing anything else.

 The Importance of Parental Breaks

All discussions about parents and electronic use should start with this: Moms often need a break. They want to do something they enjoy alone and sometimes just want to go shopping with friends. While you might appreciate having the freedom to take a break when needed, you probably also know the general tips and rules parents are encouraged to follow regarding screen time.

 Age-Specific Guidelines for Screen Time

As children grow, different age groups have specific guidelines and recommendations:

 Under 18 Months

Recommendation: Avoid all screen media except video chatting (grandparents need to see our sweet baby during video calls).

18-24 Months

Recommendation: This is the stage to start introducing your child to screens. There are no specific viewing length recommendations. Choose "high-quality," age-appropriate programming and watch it with your child to help them understand what they see and hear, and to expose them to new things they haven't encountered yet.

2-5 Years

Recommendation: Limit screen time to one hour of “high-quality” content per day. Pocokids recommends that parents watch with their children to help them connect what they see with the world around them.

6 Years and Older

Recommendation: Pocokids does not have specific screen time recommendations for children over 6 years old. However, we encourage you to balance screen time with real-life activities. Don’t let media replace your child’s time for real-life experiences.

Designating Screen-Free Times and Places

Pocokids suggests establishing screen-free times and places, such as the dining room table, bedroom, or car. Ensure there are also times to gather, communicate, and play with family and friends!

 Practical Tips for Managing Screen Time

If you’re struggling to figure out how to effectively and gently manage your child's screen time, here are some tips that might help:

 Start Young

Action: Set time limits as soon as you notice the issue. Get your kids used to having limited media time from an early age.

Consider Accessibility

Action: Evaluate how many TVs, laptops, tablets, and phones you have. What can you move, rearrange, or get rid of? "Out of sight, out of mind" is a popular saying for good reason!

Use a Timer

Action: Implement timers and/or countdowns regardless of age. No child likes to be surprised when a parent turns off the TV without warning. Communicate the specific viewing time clearly.

Set Up a Reward System

Action: Find ways for your kids to earn screen time. Have a list of chores that must be done before they can do something fun. Consistently require these to be completed before allowing screen time.

Travel-Only Rule

Action: Make plane travel the only time tablets are allowed. This doesn’t solve the TV problem, but it’s a good first step. Parenting is full of baby steps, after all!

Take Advantage of Parental Controls

Action: Use parental control options available on almost all screen media today. Once the kids are in bed, grab your glass of wine and set those limits. Some media allow you to set screens to turn off automatically after a certain amount of time.


Managing media use for young children can be difficult. All of us, regardless of age, have virtually unlimited media choices. Involve your children in conversations and decisions about screen time. Model healthy behaviors with your own phone, laptop, or TV. And give yourself some grace. If you find managing screen time particularly challenging, guess what? So do the rest of us.