Prolonged use of technology can wreak havoc on kids’ sleep schedules, physical activity, and more. Setting screen time limits can help give children guidance.

Why Should You Set Time Limits on Kids’ Tech Usage?

A child using a tablet at the table

boy sitting on chair beside table using tablet computer” used with permission via Unsplash by kellysikkema

In today’s increasingly digital world, setting helpful limits on kids’ tech usage can seem like a losing and useless battle. Between keeping up with friends online, catching up on favorite TV shows and other entertainment, and even schoolwork that relies on technology, is it even possible to set meaningful limits on screen time? The truth is, not all screen time is the same, but too much really can have a negative impact on kids.

Finding the right limit for tech usage can feel like a challenge. While excessive electronic use has links to increased risk for attention problems and obesity, it’s pretty much impossible to impose a total ban on electronic devices. The key is guiding children so they can learn to use technology in a beneficial way. Parents should strive for flexibility when setting rules that work for their family’s unique situation, considering the benefits, purposes, and timing of kids’ tech usage.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers recommendations for creating limits for screen time, including:

  • Children younger than 18 months: Avoid screen media besides video chatting.
  • Children 18 to 24 months: Parents can introduce digital media if they choose, but should look for high-quality programs and watch with kids to help them understand what they’re watching.
  • Children 2 to 5 years: Limit screen use to one hour each day. Again, caregivers should view media with kids to help them understand the media and apply it to the world, relying on high-quality programs.
  • Children 6 years and older: Put consistent limits on media time and types of media kids consume while ensuring media use doesn’t replace physical activity, adequate sleep, and other healthy behaviors.

All in all, kids need balance. Too much technology translates too little of something else, whether that’s imaginative play, in-person time with family or friends, reading, or physical activity.

How Can You Enforce Tech Usage Limits?

You can try out various strategies when you’re looking to set and enforce limits for tech usage for your family. Here are some tips and tricks:

Make Sure Limits Aren’t Too Restrictive

No matter how much we might wish otherwise, technology plays an important role in the modern world. Setting over-the-top limits or teaching kids to fear technology won’t help them in the long run. Instead, try to teach healthy habits that will let kids use electronics in a responsible way.

Teach Children About Technology

Explain that phones, computers, and other devices aren’t toys, and that kids need to handle them carefully. Discuss the benefits technology offers while thoughtfully discussing the risks, highlighting the importance of protecting personal information and respecting privacy. Have these conversations on an ongoing basis, keeping things age-appropriate and getting more detailed as your kids get older.

Make Sure Kids Have Other Activities

Though this goes beyond setting rules, making sure children have a desire and access to do other activities goes a long way in effectively limiting screen time. Kids that are comfortable playing independently with toys and engaging their imaginations can better resist the lure of gadgets. Don’t try to structure your kids’ play too much to keep them busy, though. Stock up on toys that encourage imaginative play, and set expectations that kids use those toys to keep themselves entertained.

Be Flexible

Use your judgement, and think about context when you’re setting rules. Remember, not all tech use is the same. Having a video chat with grandparents is very different from staying up late for a video game. If your child needs to do research online for school, you might allow for some extra screen time for entertainment that day. Likewise, if you have to keep a preschooler entertained while traveling, a little extra tech time might be a worthwhile compromise.

Prioritize Bedtime

Research shows that digital media usage at night can interfere with the quality of sleep people get. Beyond strict time limits, think about restricting the use of computers, tablets, and phones at least a half-hour before bedtime.

Keep Up With What Kids Are Doing

Before you buy that computer or video game, read up on it. Then, play the games yourself before passing them off to your kids. Know what parental controls every device your kid uses offers. Technology changes quickly, so staying on top of everything will help you keep your kids safe.

Set Off-Limit Times and Places

Let kids know there are certain times they can’t use devices, no matter how long they have or haven’t spent using tech that day. For example, you could say that kids can’t have non-schoolwork screen time until their homework or dinner is done, or set restrictions on tech usage when family or friends are over.

Likewise, you can set rules about specific places where electronics aren’t welcome, such as saying no screens at the dinner table or no tech usage when kids are unattended in their rooms. Having places and times when tech is off-limits helps children learn that there are some times when electronics just aren’t appropriate.

Should You Limit Your Own Tech Usage?

Setting limits on your own tech usage can set a good example for your kids. While you don’t need to hold yourself to the exact same rules, you should strive to follow the spirit of screen time limits. Be mindful of how you use electronics when you’re around the kiddos, especially when it comes to multitasking on a screen when you’re supposed to be spending time together.

Screen time limits for adults have their pros and cons. You’ll set a good example while making time for other activities for yourself. However, there might be some instances (think: non-negotiable work deadlines) where you absolutely can’t avoid using your devices. Be flexible and honest with your kids if you do need to “break” the rules and you’ll still give them tools for responsible tech usage they can use throughout their lives.That wraps up Crème de la Crème’s guide to setting time limits on kids’ tech usage. Do you have a strategy for getting your kids to stick with your screen time rules? Drop us a line so we can share it!