15 Moms on How They Finally Ended Screen-Time Battles

Wendy Robinson | Apr 7, 2017 Big Kid
15 Moms on How They Finally Ended Screen-Time Battles
Image: iStock.com/Yalana

little boy lying with ipad

I have two kids, two tablets, and have tried about a million strategies to figure out how to find balance with screen time. We've tried strict limits, we've tried no limits, and everything in between. 

Part of our problem is that I have one kid who would be on a screen every single moment if we let him. The other kid will binge-watch kitten videos one day and then ignores screens the rest of the week. We've tried different rules for each kid but we still haven't found our sweet spot. We want the kids to get to play the apps they love but also don't want them to be zoned out all the time. 

I know I'm not alone when it comes to trying to find balance with screen time -- most of the moms I know are trying to fight the exact same battle. Thankfully, I found 15 moms who've managed to find screen-time sanity. These are doable and smart solutions. Try one (or a few) to see what works at your home.

  • Give Them Choice

    family using technology

    "One of the things that bugs me about screen time is when my kids become passive consumers of media. I don't mind them doing apps, since most of the ones we have are fairly educational. But I hate seeing them sit and stare at a screen for an hour. 

    "So we made a rule: You get a choice of either 20 minutes for video watching or 40 minutes for active play per night. They still get to make a choice, but this encourages them to make a better one." -- Leslie W., Provo, Utah

  • Keep All the Screens at School

    kids using tablets in school

    "We stopped the screen-time battle by getting rid of the tablets at home. I originally got them because I wanted to make sure the kids were technically literate, but it just led to all sorts of meltdowns because my son was basically a little screen addict. 

    "My kids have tablets in their classes, so I got rid of the ones at home because I know they'll still have access to learn how to use them and develop those skills. Now we don't have the battles anymore. They were crazy mad at first but now it isn't a big deal at all." -- Brittany W., Walla Walla, Washington

  • Set No Limits At All

    dad and daughter looking at tablet

    "After trying a bunch of stuff, we just stopped with the rules. It turns out that for my daughter, having tight rules on screens made her kind of obsessed with them. Once we just started treating the screen like another toy, she went crazy with it for a few days and then got kind of bored. Now she plays with it sometimes and ignores it others, which feels like a comfortable balance." -- April L., Tubac, Arizona

  • Have Them Clean First

    kid cleaning his room

    "The smartest screen-time rule I made was that you can't have a phone or device unless your room is totally cleaned up from other toys. I find that my son starts cleaning and then gets distracted by playing with his other toys and never actually makes it to the screen-time part of the playtime." -- Anne P., El Paso, Texas

    More from CafeMom: Why I Let My Kid Play All the Video Games He Wants

  • Let Outside Time Rule


    "When my husband and I talked about the rules for screens, we figured out that what we care about more than how much time our son spends online or playing with my phone is how much time he gets outside. Getting daily unstructured playtime outside is an important value for our family. So our screen-time rule is that there is no screen time until you've spent at least an hour outside." -- Tami S., Des Moines, Iowa

  • Set a 'Screens Off' Time

    kid falling asleep in front of laptop

    "When my son got a laptop for school, we had to figure out some rules around it. After putting on some parental locks for online content, we decided that our rules would be no more than two hours per night and that it has to be turned off at least an hour before bedtime. We set a timer, and he knows when it goes off, so does his computer. 

    "I was concerned that screen time would mess with his sleep patterns, so I feel good about that rule." -- Donna M., Gary, Indiana

  • Create a Coupon System

    kid cutting paper with scissors

    "We decided to use screen time as a way to help our kids learn about budgeting. First we had them help us make some coupons for time allotments from 15 minutes to 45 minutes. We laminated them, and each kid gets 200 minutes per week. They can spend their minutes however they want to; they just have to give us their coupons. 

    "One kid basically blows through all of her coupons on the first day, and one doles hers out in 15-minute chunks at a time. It works for us because they both know that when they are out of coupons, they are out of time." -- Jenn R., Saint Paul, Minnesota

  • No Screens During Short Rides

    girl on tablet in car

    "One of our biggest fights was about screen time in the car. The kids were always begging to have their games or videos in the car, even if it was just to drive to school. For me, the final straw was when it took 15 minutes of fighting to get them in the car for a five-minute drive to the store. 

    "We made a blanket rule: No screen time in the car unless the drive is longer than one hour. Period." -- Cynthia P., Duluth, Minnesota 

  • Set Screen Time for Saturday Morning

    couple sleeping

    "We don't allow screen time during the week, so the kids are always happy to get access to the devices on Saturday morning. The bonus is that we leave the tablets out on the kitchen table along with some juice boxes and cereal bars, and they let us sleep in. We slept until 9:00 a.m. last Saturday. We are geniuses!" -- Shawnie D., Cleveland, Ohio

  • Take Screens Away as Punishment

    kids in time-out

    "Losing screen time is the consequence for fighting. I have no problems keeping screen time to a minimum because the only thing they like more than watching cat videos is fighting with each other. They haven't had screen time in two weeks." -- Hollie C., Davenport, Iowa

  • Stick to Paper Books

    kids reading books

    "One of our rules is that we don't read books on e-readers. I believe that learning to love to read requires actual paper books. I'm old-school. 

    "We also don't let them have screen time unless they've done 30 minutes of reading first. I want to raise readers, and I like when they get so into the book that they lose track of the time. It happens more than you might think." -- Andi W., Boise, Idaho

  • Make Screen Time into Family Time

    family using tablets and computers and phone

    "My concern with screen time is that everyone retreats into their own rooms, and we aren't interacting at all. So we made a rule that we have screen time from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. but we do it together, around the table. We end up sharing funny videos, and I also know a lot more about what games they are into, which I think is good." -- Audrey V., Blaine, Minnesota 

    More from CafeMom: 14 Moms Reveal the Parenting 'Rules' They Can't Stop Breaking

  • Give Yourself Time to Cook in Peace

    using ipad to help cook

    "I swore that I wouldn't let my kids have screen time, including TV, until they were at least 4. But then my kid turned 2 and all hell broke loose, especially by the end of the day. My kid was driving me nuts when I was trying to make dinner every night. So I've decided that screen time is available every night when I'm making dinner. I can cook in peace, and he gets a cartoon fix. Screen time isn't bad if it keeps me from going nuts every night." -- Kelly S., Burlington, Vermont 

  • Let Your Kid Code

    girls working on computer

    "I think about screen time as either being active or passive. I hate the passive stuff, like the watching of Minecraft videos, but I don't mind the active stuff, like when she works on her girl coding club exercises or [is] actually playing Minecraft. I limit the passive stuff to no more than 30 minutes per day but the active stuff is unlimited. It works for us." -- Christy T., Jessup, Maryland

  • The Hard Truth

    woman using smartphone

    "The hard truth about screen: I had to admit that I was setting a terrible example. I was on my phone all the time. Like, seriously, all the time. Of course the kids would want to be on a screen all the time too. So I made a rule for myself that I don't zone out on my phone while the kids are still up. All of us are more into doing other stuff when the phones are put away." -- Mandy B., Duluth, Minnesota 

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