Screen Time How Much is too Much for your family?

Screen Time: How Much is Too Much?

Is there really such a thing as too much screen time? Between cell phones, computers, televisions, tablets, and watches, a screen is usually only inches away. As much as I hate to do it, because I love my electronics, I feel that the time spent with these things should be limited.

Before our daughter was born, my wife and I discussed this issue and we both arrived at the same conclusion. While our kids are very young, we’ll completely avoid screen time and as they get older, we’ll selectively allow it. That all sounds good, but when our son came along, we went into survival mode and realized that our daughter was getting too much time in front of the television. We had to fix this before it became an issue.

Sorry kiddo, you’re not old enough

We made it a rule in our house that until you’re two years old, you don’t get to sit and watch TV at all. That seems to be somewhat accepted out in the world and either way, we aren’t willing to chance it since there isn’t much known benefit to sticking a very young child in front of a screen. However, as the kids get a little older, they are more aware that some interesting things might be on the TV and it can also provide educational opportunities when used responsibly. I feel like two was a good age to make that distinction.


When specifically talking about how much television / video screen time should be allowed, the amount of time is important, but so is the quality of the programming. Programs like Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, which is inspired by Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, can be great because they teach values and general life skills. Certain shows help our daughter’s imagination run wild, which is great. Some other shows, even if technically age-appropriate, offer very little benefit, and we make sure to limit them much more.

Lead by example

Alright, this is admittedly a tough one for me. In my spare time, when I might take a few minutes to relax, I tend to whip out my phone and do some reading of the news or catching up on things. The problem is that my kids see that and assume that I’m just glued to my screen. We’ve always tried to lead by example where possible and have found that when we put away our devices and focus on other things, it is much easier for the kids to do the same without thinking much of it. The bonus is that every minute not spent on my phone is another minute I can spend with my kids doing something fun. A win-win scenario for sure.

Is anyone even watching?

How often do you sit around with the TV on, look up, and realize nobody is even watching? This might be a good place to start pulling back on the amount of time the screens are on. If there is a show playing that your family is actively engaged in watching, great. If not, consider turning it off all together.

Take the time to explain

If your child is still young, simply telling her that she’s had enough TV time probably isn’t enough. She could think she’s in trouble and that you are punishing her or just plain old not understand. Take a few minutes and discuss the reasons that you’d rather the family does something else instead of sitting in front of the TV. For us, we can say that we want to include the whole family in an activity and our youngest isn’t old enough yet.

Provide fun alternative activities

Telling your kids that they can’t watch TV is fine, but make sure to have other fun things they are able to do. Maybe there is a local science center or aquarium you can explore. If the weather allows for it, try to get your kids outside and let them run around for some exercise. You don’t have to do anything too extravagant either; if you need to stay home, try playing some music or simple games for entertainment. Being mentally and physically active will provide many benefits over the long term and will also set your children on a good path going forward.

Is my child addicted?

Of course I’m not in any way qualified to diagnose addiction, but there are some basic warning signs that you’ll be able to recognize. We give our child a five minute warning or tell her that we are going to turn the TV off after the episode is over. If she has a very negative reaction to that, we know that we need to dial it back a bit. We have noticed that when screen time is only occasional and not expected, when it is time to turn it off, it tends to not be a big deal. That’s just one way we can gauge the situation.

Other things we’ve noticed are children begging to watch shows over and over without being willing to try any other fun activities. If you notice an obsession of sorts, maybe it is time to cut back the screen time even further.

As with everything, your mileage may vary!

Other ideas to break the screen time habits

Consider having a week in which your entire family keeps the TV turned off. Can you do it? Do you need a cable subscription any more? Sure, people can be addicted to Netflix, Hulu, and the like, but I’ve noticed that since we’ve “cut the cord” we are less likely to have daily shows on in the background.

Let your kids pick activities that are more enjoyable than watching TV. Having them drive the conversation makes them buy into the concept. Maybe they can even help set screen-time goals if they are old enough.

You probably won’t miss it

I hope this article gives you some ideas of ways to reduce the time spent watching TV and online content and allows you to get out and have fun with the family. Enjoy your time together!

Screen Time How Much is too Much for your family?

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