How to Control Your Children's Screen Time

Technology can be a great ally in your children's learning, but it's necessary to control your children's screen time. Learn how.
How to Control Your Children's Screen Time
Maria Fátima Seppi Vinuales

Written and verified by the psychologist Maria Fátima Seppi Vinuales.

Last update: 11 February, 2023

Technology by itself is neither the solution nor the problem. For example, it can be useful for your child to find updated information while doing homework. However, it can also be a source of difficulty when it comes to interacting or doing other things when all they want is to be on their cell phone or tablet. Ultimately, what makes the difference is its use. Below, you’ll find some keys to managing your children’s screen time.

Screens, omnipresent

Mobile devices, video games, and television were there since our children were born. Then came the pandemic with online classes and social gatherings and long days spent indoors. As a result, technology and all it has to offer through screens are here to stay.

Parents face the challenge of raising kids with traditional values in a time of very high screen exposure with visual and auditory stimuli that compete directly with parental sermons. So, instead of trying to go against the use of technology, it’s a matter of learning to live with it.

Keys to controlling your children’s screen time

Here are some keys to limiting the time your children spend in front of technological devices.

Set aside time for technology

It’s important that children also develop digital skills. Therefore, it’s valid to allow them to entertain themselves and use video games or cell phones. Yes, it’s important to negotiate with them what the duration will be and at what times screens will be allowed. In this regard, keep in mind that the rules should be age appropriate.

According to the age of the child, it’s important to determine how much time they’ll be allowed to be in front of a screen and at what times of the day.

Take turns

Even when your children enjoy their screen time, that use can be guided. For example, adults and siblings can play games with them. This way, they also exercise respect regarding taking turns (e.g., one level each) and learn to play as a team, among other benefits.

Instal usage controls

Technology also allows us to set up configurations to control its use. For example, after two hours of daily activity, access to certain applications can be blocked.

Establish zones and times when technology can’t be used

For example, cell phones can’t be used at lunch or dinner time, and taking the phone or tablet to bed isn’t allowed, among other measures. At the same time, it’s best to avoid the presence of a television or computer in the bedroom.

Offer other activities

In replacement of screens, you can suggest that your child play a board game or sports or any other plan that interests them.

A mother playing a bored game with her children.
Offering children other activities to reduce screen time is key, such as playing board games. Also, it’s a good option for the parent to share that time with them.

Other considerations to keep in mind about your children’s screen time

In addition to limiting your children’s screen use, it’s important that you can pay attention to other aspects such as the following:

  • Cell phone use is discouraged when kids are just getting up or before they go to bed to sleep.
  • You should supervise the content your children access. Just as you wouldn’t allow them to jump over a 10-foot wall, you shouldn’t let them surf the Internet freely. There are applications that facilitate parental control and block certain sites.
  • Talk to your children about the importance of having other activities. Spending a lot of time in front of a device has numerous consequences in terms of health, both physical, such as a sedentary lifestyle, and mental, such as the anxiety generated by not being able to stop checking notifications and likes.
  • Choose games where your children can play a more active or reflective role. For example, question and answer games instead of games where they simply have to press a button.
  • If you notice that your child has a severe problem regarding device use, offer help rather than getting angry about it.
  • Pay attention to changes in your child’s behavior or mood. For example, isolation, irritability, anxiety, or fear of being left alone. Many times, children can be victims of cyberbullying or grooming and don’t dare to speak up.

Screens can’t be the answer to everything

Finally, it’s important that you can think about your own use of technology, in a double sense. How much time do you spend in front of your cell phone to answer messages? Do you use it while eating with your family? Do you put aside a game with your children to see social network notifications?

Undoubtedly, technology has fully impacted each of our daily activities and, sometimes, its use is almost in automatic mode. However, in order to set a limit for your children, you must reflect on your own behavior and be able to set a limit for yourself. It’s important that you can be an example for your children and respect the rules you agree upon with them.

Secondly, you should consider how often you resort to screens as an intermediary or as a tool every time you need to distract the kids or you’re looking to avoid a tantrum. As experts say, technology is the new pacifier that we use out of convenience and, sometimes, little awareness.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

    • Resett, Santiago. (2021). Grooming online, sexting y problemas emocionales en adolescentes argentinos. Ciencias Psicológicas15(1), e2397. Epub 01 de junio de 2021.
    • Rodríguez Sas, O., & Estrada, L. C. (2021). Incidencia del uso de pantallas en niñas y niños menores de 2 años. Revista De Psicología, 086.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.