Screen-Time Limits for Parents?

Screen Time Limits for Parents

We’re on our devices a lot. Maybe we shouldn’t be.

Sierra FilucciCommon Sense Media logo
Common Sense Media
Executive Editor, Parenting Content | Mom of Two

Distracted parenting has been a hot topic recently. Some experts link the rise in smartphone ownership to a spike in emergency room visits for kids under 5. Others say kids are growing up starved for attention from smartphone-addicted parents who don’t even look at their kids during dinner.

textingparentingWhile most of us would like to think we have a healthier relationship with our kids (and our phones) than other folks, the facts don’t back us up. But what’s really going on? Sure, many of us are sneaking a Facebook update at the park, scrolling through email while building LEGOs, and texting during bathtime. But we’re also learning how to integrate this amazing new technology into our lives as parents. Our smartphone’s map helps us figure out where to drop off our kids for swim lessons; texting helps coordinate afterschool playdates; and there are so many great apps for both parents and kids — useful when you’re in a particularly slow line at the grocery store.

Still, if we parents are going to be smart about our smartphones, we do need to make a few rules for ourselves — just as we make rules for our kids on devices. Smartphone users tend to underestimate the time they spend staring at their phones instead of their kids. It might feel like 20 seconds, but really three minutes have passed — long enough for kids to wander off, get into trouble, or feel neglected.

A few suggestions for keeping our relationships with our phones more balanced:

  • No devices during mealtimes. And if a topic comes up that you would normally google, add it to a list to look up later.
  • Leave the game-playing until after the kids are in bed.
  • No texting or talking on the phone while driving.
  • Put away the phone if the kids are swimming unattended or doing anything else potentially dangerous.
  • Designate “no-tech zones” in your home — and respect them!

Beyond these basics, only you can decide what works for your family. In general, kids need our attention, but not ALL THE TIME. So don’t feel bad if you play a game on your phone while the kids are frolicking in gymnastics class. A few nods of encouragement will do the trick.

And remember, you are modeling behavior for your kids. So if you don’t want your tween or teen to turn into a phone zombie, try not to act like one yourself.

SierraFilucciAbout Sierra Filucci

Sierra has been writing and editing professionally for more than a decade, with a special interest in women’s and family subjects. She has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of California at Berkeley,… Read more

View all posts by Sierra Filucci here.

This post was originally posted by Common Sense Media on 8/8/14.

Common Sense MediaAbout Common Sense Media
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36 Comments on “Screen-Time Limits for Parents?”

  1. I agree 100% with this article. Children need our time and attention,they dont need to see mommy and daddy glued to the screen and honestly i see it everyday…people dont live your day around technology .

  2. I can understand the temptation to peek at your smart phone or tablet during mealtimes with young children:) Let’s face it, sometimes getting your kids just to finish their dinner takes an hour and it gets exhausting. However, we have a no tech rule at the table because it teaches the kids that they aren’t important enough for our full attention and there are so few years we get to show them just how important they are.

    1. Very well said, Kara. You are exactly right about getting kids to finish their meals! haha! But as you say, it’s so important to be present with them.

  3. Great article. It is hard to disconnect given the new expectations from work and other sources that want you to be connected 24/7. But for the sake of our children, we need to make a concerted effort to do so.

    1. Agreed, Kerry! It just feels like you need to be checking in 24/7 now since it is a possibility…but you don’t!

  4. I agree with this article. Generations now a days are allowing technology to raise our kids instead of accepting our responsibility as parents. The rules suggested in this article are a great way to start! No tech zones in house, no phones at meal times, and I think incorporating family time is great also. Take the family out and leave all devices at home! They do still make cameras people!

    1. Exactly, Alicia! No phones at meal times is so important! It’s so strange to see families (or friends) at a restaurant on their phones. Just enjoy your time together! The phone can wait!

  5. At the beginning of this year we all decide no more tablets, phones in our hands when we talking to each other, at dinner, family time, and was day for 1 he we all go outside together and do something tt

    1. Glad to hear that you and your family are taking steps to make sure you’re not getting sucked into screens rather than spending time with each other!

  6. I probably should set more limits. I know my mom friends all limit TV and computer time at their houses. But it’s a reward for my daughter after she finishes her homework. She gets so little time at home I hate to tell her she can’t do something while everyone else in the house is doing it. I don’t know it’s complicated but respect everyone’s ideas.

    1. Do you think that as a parent you are also on screens too much? I know I certainly am sometimes. We set limits in our house for everyone so that as parents, we can make sure we’re not spending too much time on screens either.

  7. This is so important. Especially if you have going kids! One look at your phone in the park and your child could be abducted or get hurt! It is also teaching our kids to do the same things as is. We need to think about our actions and the consequences they will have.

    1. Yes, setting a good example with our actions is important, Grace. Plus how can we make our children feel like we really value them and love them if we’re spending many hours staring at screens and ignoring them?

  8. This is very true. I see people all the time stuck to their phone with kids present. We don’t allow phones at the dinner table. If it rings it will be answered after dinner unless it is someone calling back to back. Movie time with our kids is another one. I usually post what we are watching and that’s it.

    1. That’s great to hear Brandi! No phones at dinner is a great rule. It’s so nice to just let that be family time!

  9. Being on my phone less was actually my new years resolution. So far, so good…but there are some days I find myself on my phone too much. I have started leaving my phone in my bedroom during the day so I don’t always have it in my hand.

    1. That’s a great New Year’s Resolution! We’re working on that in our household too. Leaving the phone in another room during the day is a great strategy!

  10. I agree with there being too much time spent on smart phones and not enough interaction with the kids.I see it everywhere, with kids screaming and parents staring at their phone . Thanks for the great tips.

    1. It’s so easy to get sucked into the computer! If you’re girls are saying that, it probably means they want your attention more. I’ve been there plenty myself! As you say, setting limits is SO important!

  11. I really like the idea of “no tech zones”. I will have to implement that. Thanks for the idea!

  12. I wish more people saw how smart phones are destroying our lives. Besides the fact that parents are ignoring their kids because they’re too involved with their smart phones, we shouldn’t be teaching our kids to be staring at a little screen all day. Children need stimulation, they need experiences, they need to learn from you and not a screen and they need to make friends and play. Please parents put your phones away and pay attention to your kids.

    1. Sharon, thanks for your thoughtful comments. Screens are a reality of life now, so the secret is in limiting our exposure. We all need to experience real life and real human interaction. It’s important for parents and it’s important in all relationships. We can’t ignore each other; that doesn’t make for a healthy relationship. We’re very glad to hear that you are so passionate about this!

  13. I believe that parents should spend less time on a screen and pay more attention to their kids. A child shouldnt have to fight for their parents attention.

    1. Agreed, Amanda! Of course, this doesn’t apply to every parent by any means, but it’s important for us all to be aware of how much time we’re spending on screens.

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