Passionate About Pittsburgh
and the Moms Who Live Here

Tips for Fighting the Never-Ending War Over Screen Time

It is a constant daily battle in my home. The constant requesting of the electronic tablet or a television show or a movie that ring through my ears. Screen time is ruining our children, many argue. They aren’t playing outside anymore; screen time impairs their ability to focus and can even affect sleep.

I’m not going to be foolish and try to ban screen time in my home. While that may work for some, that just wouldn’t work for us.

Here’s why my kids will continue to have screen time: I work from home. That phone call can be squeezed in; a solitary cup of coffee enjoyed. There are educational APPs that they specifically ask to do. So much is expected of them from school to extra-curricular activities, so they have earned some down time. Their friends have all these devices and video games, so it would be unfair and unrealistic to deprive them of the same. These devices are ubiquitous. Look at the cell phone in your hand, it’s not going away any time soon. We have to parent in the age of screen time overload. Strictly prohibiting them would surely backfire like labeling other difficult topics like alcohol or sex strictly taboo.

So, if you are like me and need to co-exist peacefully with the devices, here are some ways to reasonably limit screen time in your home:

  • Set a time limit per day that works for you. Some suggest 20-30 minutes. To be honest, that’s a little low for my home. Others suggest limiting screen time to one night a week, but allow for longer viewing to fit in a full length movie or two.
  • Use screen time as a reward. For instance, after your child practices spelling words or reads a book or completes homework. Whatever is age-appropriate in your home.
  • Another thing I loathe about screen time: my son is terribly cranky once his allotted time is over. He finds it difficult to transition to something else even if we talk about his moodiness or explain that he can’t get upset once the time is over. I’m going to try to have him select an activity to do after screen time BEFORE he begins to aid with the transition post-screen time.
  • No screen time when friends are over. The last thing I want when I have arranged for a play date is for the kids to hang out on their tablets. Other human beings exist for interaction. Go play with your friends. If necessary, make children share one device together so that the screen time isn’t so isolating. Or, limit to something social, like making silly videos together.
  • For younger children, try to limit screen time to educational shows and APPs. E.g., ABC Mouse, Martha Speaks, Team Umi Zumi, Word Girl. As they get older, I know all they want is violence like that terrible post-apocalyptic APP that my seven-year-old is fascinated with: Plants v. Zombies.
  • I do use devices at restaurants. I wouldn’t get through certain public meals without them. However, I try to make sure that my kids interact with the adults for some time before handing out the tablets and head phones.
  • For younger children, I try not to rely on screen time as a first resort to a calm them. I try other things to soothe them first: a song, a story, a book, or a change in scenery.
  • Teach kids that screen time includes the computer, iPad, Kindles, television, Wii, PlayStation, phones, etc. So, if they chose to play Angry Birds for 25 minutes, that means that the Nick Jr. episode will have to wait until next time.
  • Try to get children to agree to the same screen time. I know, easier said than done. A common scene in my home is three of us perched on stools around the kitchen island: one child on a tablet while another watches television, while I’m on my laptop.
  • Turn off the background television. If the television is on all day long, then the effectiveness of using screen time as a reward disappears. Some people can’t give up that background noise. Maybe try listening to music instead.
  • Another Pittsburgh Moms Blog writer, Jen Forsyth, a busy mother of three children aged 8 through 16 tackled this subject last month in her article Limiting Screen Time with Less Effort. She recommends turning off the wifi at a certain hour of the evening and changing the password frequently. For more of her tips, see the full article here.


Good luck as the screen time war continue to rage in every home throughout the country in between the hours of 2:45 and 8:45 PM daily.

–Carissa Howard

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