Parenting 101: Kids Getting Too Much Screen Time? How to Limit Screen Time Without Scream Time


Wondering how to keep your child under the screen time limit recommended by health professionals of an hour and a half a day without it turning into an all-out fit?

It can be difficult to impose rules on how much time is spent in front of the TV, video game system, computer and handheld players, especially when every special occasion results in another influx of new electronic accessories. But it’s not impossible.

How to Limit Screen Time without Scream Time

#1: Redirect to other stimulation – The best approach is to have alternate activities set up and ready to go. Set up board games, or sports equipment, or get recipe ingredients out and ready for a baking session.

#2: Be involved – It’s important that you are knowledgeable of where they travel on the Internet and whom they play games with. Spend time building the parent-child relationship by taking an interest in their online gaming and chatting pursuits. It’s easier to direct them to your activities after you connect for a while in their playground.

#3: Don’t punish – problem solve! It’s not a battle of you against them. It’s you and your child against the problem. You are both on the same team! Work the problem out together to everyone’s satisfaction and enjoy the new rules and increased connection.

#4: Model a balanced life – Invite your child to participate with you in your pursuit of the 7 keys to a balanced life. Many children will get active if the parents or the whole family is involved. The 7 keys to a balanced life include time for social activity, physical activity, mental exercise, spiritual, family, financial and hobby.

#5: Negotiate! Make good use of Family Conferences, where you voice your “parent concerns.” Setting up consulting and negotiating sessions to discuss time limits that meet everyone’s needs increases the likelihood of everyone sticking to the rules.

#6: Issue time tokens – Each hour of physical activity will garner a child an hour of screen time.

#7: Get it in writing – Draw up a daily schedule and discuss where screen time fits in with the day’s already scheduled activities. Children can sign into time slots.

#8: Contract – Draw up a weekly or monthly agreement that has limits decided by both the parent and child together. Display in a prominent place. Point to it when the complaining occurs. Discuss when the contract is up for renewal.

#9: Change the environment – Sometimes, it’s easier to move around the setting than to change the other person. Seriously consider whether adding more equipment and hardware will add to the screen time and decide to not bring it into the house. Move the computer and gaming systems into the main family area. Limiting the gaming systems and computer to one for the children to share means more fighting over screen time, but can also mean more time spent in learning the valuable skill of negotiating and less individual screen time.

#10: Teach your child the fine art of haggling! “Hey, Eric, Wow, you made another level! Good for you! Now, I need you to do the dishes. What time would you like to get at them?” Insist they give you a time and haggle when they give you an outrageous one. A choice from your child makes it easier for them to abide by it.

Remember, you have the most power to negotiate rules and limits before the power button goes on!

Want more parenting tips? Check out her best-selling book, “Discipline Without Distress: 135 tools for raising caring, responsible children without time-out, spanking, punishment or bribery”.


About Author

Judy Arnall, BA, DTM, CCFE, currently teaches "Parenting Your Teen" at The University of Calgary, Continuing Education, and has taught for Chinook Learning, Families Matter, and Alberta Health Services for the past 13 years. Judy is the author of the International bestseller, Discipline Without Distress: 135 Tools for raising caring, responsible children without time-out, spanking, punishment or bribery and the newly released DVD, Plugged-In Parenting: Connecting with the Digital Generation for Health, Safety and Love and the new parenting “un-advice” book, The Last Word on Parenting Advice. She specializes in “Parenting the Digital Generation”

1 Comment

  1. Great article!

    “Teaching your child to haggle”: now that’s setting yourself up for a world of hurt later 😉

    “10 minutes more, Mom”
    “OK, 5 and that’s my final offer”

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