Updated January 1, 1 . AmFam Team
When the kids are home full time, you may find yourself wondering how you can limit screen time on their smartphones and other gadgets. They’ll typically resist any loss of access to their devices, and sometimes, it’s easier to just let them play online. When they're occupied, you can get things done — especially if you’re working from home. But when kids are socially isolated, their devices can actually help them stay connected to friends and family.
So, how do you manage screen time while allowing kids to keep in touch with the people that matter to them? The answer is really pretty simple. Low-cost or free software can help you enforce time limits, and online meeting tools can help your youngsters stay in touch with their peers and relatives. So, take a look at our advice on screen time management to find that all-important screen-life balance for your kids.
One great way to help kids stay connected when socially distancing is to schedule virtual play dates for them. They get to reconnect with friends they’d otherwise not see, and that can mean a lot. From hosting virtual birthday parties to inviting kids for an online Zoom hangout, there’s a lot you can do to help create virtual social fun for them.
Attend to their social and emotional well-being with regular online visits when in-person contact isn’t possible. And because they won’t be deep in an app, or absorbed in online content, that social screen time can help create healthier, long-term habits.
One key way to manage screen time for your kids is to set time limits on their devices. When they're deeply focused on laptops, tablets and phones, getting their attention can be difficult. Part of that is because today’s online content is quite stimulating for kids. They can’t get enough of it. And that means they have a hard time pulling away from their devices — perhaps you’ve noticed. Setting limits halts the use of their device, or prevents them from accessing certain apps.
Here are a few recommendations on helping kids consume their tech carefully:
Stay one step ahead by leveraging apps that allow greater parental control over the content your kids view. Many of these systems also offer a suite of other services like screen time limiting and app usage reports, as well as details on the websites your kids attempted to access.
Take a look at Qustudio (Opens in a new tab), Kaspersky (Opens in a new tab)and Norton Family Premier (Opens in a new tab) for highly-recommended parental controls that allow you to limit your kid’s access to certain websites and apps. You can even track their texts, location and social media usage.
Discuss with your kids the types of content they’re allowed to look at and what they should to stay away from. Be firm but clear with them, and review consequences if they’re not following your directions. It’s best to keep the initial penalties small — screen time loss of 15 minutes or so — because it still gets the message across without resorting to harsh limits.
If you’ve got kids in grade school and high school, you’ll need two separate screen time routines. Elementary school-aged kids will need more direction and supervision or restriction. And the teenagers in your home can be afforded access to social media, given that they promise to use it responsibly.
One great way to motivate kids to help out around the house is to require daily assistance in the kitchen and with the laundry. By mandating that the kids make their beds and clean up before they get their tech, you’ll help them to build healthy habits that can boost morale and help to keep everyone feeling better.
Modeling good screen time habits and behavior informs the kids that you’re also respecting those key tech usage boundaries. Reinforce the limits by discussing how your alarm or timer told you it was time to put down your device and get on with other tasks. Soon enough the transition from tech to the real world will be smooth.
Wondering how to manage your child’s screen time? It’s important to remember that, unchecked, the internet can take kids anywhere. That includes many places you don’t want them going. Spend time discussing the kinds of content your kids are allowed to view and consider enabling age restrictions on streaming media services to help ensure that movies or videos are suitable for their age.
Before handing off devices or allowing screen time, recap the importance of staying safe and discuss the amount of time your kids will have to play online. Break up their screen time with chore hours and time dedicated to homework each day.
Consistency is key here because kids do best with a predictable schedule. How many hours should your child be on a device daily? That depends on you, but the key here is to strike a balance between tech and other activities for your kids.
When kids stray from their expected screen time routine — by either staying on too long or viewing inappropriate content — they’ll need correction. Again, a uniform response each time can go a long way to helping produce predictable, desired behaviors from your kids. Talk to them clearly about the consequences and make sure to follow through.
One way for kids to understand why you’re limiting their screen time is to review how screen time affects the developing brain. You don’t need to go into too much detail here. It’s best to put screen time on the same context as the importance of daily diet and exercise.
Kids need to get up and move around across the day. They also will likely get a tummy ache if they eat candy all day. The same goes for screens. Encourage kids to limit their screen time to stay healthy.
With the family at home full time, you may find you’re preparing meals more frequently. That translates into increased use of your home’s appliances. The dishwasher is running daily, you’re probably doing more laundry cycles and asking more of that hot water heater than you have in the past.
Now’s a great time to review your homeowners coverages and pick up optional protection that better covers your home from unexpected problems. Reach out to your American Family Insurance agent (Opens in a new tab) today. And ask about all the great ways you can bolster your homeowners insurance to better protect your family and your investments.