Screen time! One of the big controversial topics in parenting. Everyone has heard the screen time rules but are they realistic? Sometimes the TV or the tablets are the only things that will give you a little peace and quiet. Let’s talk about how you can feel a little less guilty about screen time rules.

Screen time rules - rules for screen time, ways to earn it and how to tell if your kid has had enough

Hi, my name is Melanie, and I’m a screen time mom. The thing that makes this so crazy, is that before I had kids (the best stories start with this phrase, don’t they?), I said I would never use the TV or tablet as a babysitter. Let’s all have a really great laugh about this one for a second.

Are you done?

Cool. Me too. It just isn’t/wasn’t realistic for my family and me. I have been pregnant 3 times (last time with twins) and I was SO SICK. The TV and the tablets became my best babysitter for my then 5.5 and 2.5 year olds. They were the only thing that allowed me to get some rest and lie down so I would stop puking.

What is a good amount of screen time?

If you’re looking for the AAP recommendation, you’re in the wrong place. As I’ve said, I’m a realist when it comes to screen time rules. I whole heartedly believe that this is dependent on the individual child. I will say that most children will not settle well for bedtime if screen time has been present up to an hour before bedtime. It is very overstimulating a most kids can’t self regulate after it’s over! My kids do okay with small chunks of screen time and do not do well when they sit in front of the TV for hours.

Does screen time include TV?

Yes. It includes anything with a screen, besides the back door ๐Ÿ˜‰ This includes video games, TV, kindle/ipad, etc.

Should kids earn screen time?

Again, this is dependent on the children! My kids “earn” screen time by getting things done that need to be done. For example, my oldest has a check list he needs to complete before watching TV before school. He has to get dressed, eat breakfast, pack his backpack (snack and lunch if applicable), put his shoes, backpack and jacket by the door and brush his teeth. He has a checklist that he sees each morning. Also, real talk, they earn screen time when I have had it and I need them to just chill out ๐Ÿ˜‰

Signs your kid has had too much screen time

  • Irritability
  • Difficulty removing himself from the screen/difficulty transitioning from the screen
  • Grumpy attitude after screen time is over
  • Constantly asking for more screen time
  • Difficulty settling down for bedtime

How to limit screen time

As I said before, my kids do best in short bursts of screen time. So, one episode here, go play outside for an hour, eat lunch, then settle down with a show after lunch. You can also make a checklist of your own so they can visually see what they need to do to “earn” that screen time. It could be necessary tasks (like ours – getting ready for the day) or extra things they do to show they want screen time (like loading the dishwasher, cleaning their room, reading for 15 minutes, helping their sister with their homework, etc).

Alternatives to screen time

OMG sensory play! After dinner we don’t have the TV or tablets on. We read books, do puzzles, do some sensory play, talk about our day, play board games, more board games, play card games. A lot of times screen time is for us, not them. We need the break. Which is totally fine and shouldn’t make you feel guilty. But if your kids are like mine and can’t handle it, switch to something else that makes them work and think. A lot of times they can do these things on their own and you can tune out for a little bit, too.

Bottom line – screen time doesn’t have to be the devil. There are educational netflix shows, there are apps you can try, and video games can be controlled. The reality is some parents just can’t avoid it, and that’s fine! Screen time rules can differ for everyone.

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