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Managing your family's screen time

Updated: Apr 25, 2022

It is a challenge that all families face and it can be confusing how to navigate your children's exposure to technology and screen time. Every parent, colleague, educator, and internet forum will tell you something different and it can be very difficult to manage what's safe and "fair" for your children.

At Bilingual Nannies Agency, we look to the experts to find effective strategies and decisions for how to implement rules and routines around children's screen times. We believe it's best to use the below strategies to make screen time work best for you and your children.

Screen time management strategies

It's important that screen time is just a part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle of a child, though sometimes this is easier said than done.

For this reason, you need strategies for managing time and screen use. These could include:

  • family rules

  • routines

  • transitions

  • choices

1. Family rules

Implementing rules around screen time enable your child to understand your family's limits and expectations.

Some questions to guide you in negotiating the rules include:

  • When can the children use screens? Eg. only after homework is complete, or not during meal times? Do the children need to ask you prior?

  • Will this just be on specific days? What about weekends? What about vacations?

  • How long can the children use the screens?

  • Where can they use the screen? Eg. not in bedrooms, but only in common spaces.

Making the rules - It's important to include all family members when establishing the family rules about screen use. Be mindful that rules may be different depends on the age of your children too. Revisit the rules every few months or whenever a new device is introduced into the home.

2. Routines

Routines provide children with structure enabling them to predict what to do, when and how often. This allows families to build screen time into their family life easier.

Having a consistent routine helps you to minimise conflict about screen use.

3. Screen time transitions

The difficult part about having screen time is normally when the time is done and its time to turn the device off. Planning transitions from screen time to other activities can make things easier for the child but also the parents too!

Some tips:

  • Set your child's expectations before commencing a screen time session. You could say, 'You can watch one episode', or 'You can play until 18h15 which is in 20minutes'.

  • Choose your timing. When possible, time an activity like bath time for when your child has finished a game or the end of a TV program.

  • Give your child a warning before their time is up. Giving them a 5minute warning that their screen time is almost coming to an end.

  • Give your child time to save what they're doing.

4. Choices

Allowing your child to have choices and input into the family's screen time rules, your child will be more likely to cooperate with the rules.

You can offer your child choices about:

  • What to watch or do - You could say, 'Do you want to watch Scooby-Doo or Pokémon today?' or 'Do you want to play on the FIFA app or work on your animation this afternoon?'

  • When to use screens - You could say, ' Do you want to have your screen time when you come home from school or before dinner time?'

  • How to break up screen time - You could say, 'Do you want to use a timer or take a break when you finish each game?'

This article was written using strategies mentioned in, 'Managing screen time: strategies for children 3-11 years' on, which was developed in collaboration with Dr Joanne Orlando, Senior Lecturer, Early Childhood Education, Western Sydney University, and digital families expert; Kylie Hesketh, Professor, Deakin University; and Dr Ana Mantilla, Senior Research Associate, Australian Catholic University.

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