Managing your child’s screen time doesn’t have to be a drag. Find out how to make building healthy habits fun, plus pediatricians’ top tips.

Child Health, Family Health | one year ago

Turn Off the Screen, Turn On the Fun

Managing your child’s screen time doesn’t have to be a drag. Find out how to make building healthy habits fun, plus pediatricians’ top tips.    

Outside of school and homework, children and teens spend an average of 3.5 hours reading each week. They spend more than 5 times that watching TV and other videos – nearly 18 hours a week, on average. And that 18 hours is just a fraction of their total screen time – it doesn’t include time spent using cell phones, computers and tablets. 


Although screen time can serve as a good learning tool and video chats allow us to connect with loved ones, Gracie Crowder, FNP with Atrium Health Levine Children's Shelby Children's Clinic likes to reminds parents that screens do not need to be used to distract a child.  


“Using phones and screen time as a distraction technique can lead to further issues for a child’s developmental, emotional, mental and physical well-being,” Crowder says. “I have witnessed patients with sleep problems, lower academic performance levels, behavioral issues, mental health issues and weight problems due to prolonged screen time.”


These problems can also expand to impact a child’s ability to cope with frustrations and boredom and stunt emotional intelligence. 


“Too much screen time can also hinder children and adolescents’ ability to use their imagination,” she adds. “We need to remind parents that it is okay for children to not have a tablet or phone in their hand at all times, and that being bored is okay.”  


Crowder acknowledges that limiting screen time can be hard. But one way to start changing this habit is to consider other fun things to do instead of staring at a screen, like:

  • Ride a bike
  • Go on a nature hike
  • Put together a puzzle
  • Turn on the music and dance
  • Read a book or magazine
  • Spend time catching up with your family
  • Take your kids to the park or beach
  • Play board games
  • Walk, run or jog
  • Start a journal
  • Play ball (basketball, catch or soccer)
  • Go to the library
  • Explore gyms in your community
  • Rollerblade
  • Play charades


It’s also important to set some ground rules. Start by taking stock of your child’s current habits. Figure out how much of their average screen time is spent on pure entertainment like mindless videos or unnecessary games – and how much goes toward more positive activities like gathering information or being creative. Taking this important step can give you the knowledge you need to set rules that work for your family.


Setting rules helps kids know what to expect – and helps them learn to moderate their own habits. You can start with basic limits, like no TV or smartphone before homework or chores are done. Or you can give them a set amount of time to play video games and use a timer to keep track. When the bell goes off, so does the game.


For healthy screen time, our pediatricians often recommend these tips:

  • No TV or computer in the room where the child sleeps
  • For children ages 2 and younger, no digital media other than video chatting
  • For children ages 2 to 5, one hour or less of educational TV or computer time per day
  • For children ages 6 and older, two hours or less of recreational TV or computer time per day

Other suggestions include:

  • Eliminate TV time during the week
  • Don’t turn on the TV during meal time
  • Help your child plan television viewing in advance
  • Keep books, magazines and board games in the family room
  • Make a list of fun activities to do instead of being in front of a screen
  • Set family guidelines for age-appropriate shows


And parents, it’s time to tame your screen time, too. Set a good example with your own screen viewing habits. Be a role model and follow your own rules. Remember, life is lots more fun when you join in!  

 Article updated 4/13/2023