Balancing Screen Time for Kids

Kids love TV. And computers, and iPods, and smart phones and video games—heaven help! In this face-paced world of technology and media entertainment, how can a parent fight for the kids’ attention?


It might be easier than you think. The goal is to make screen time less enticing and your kids more discerning—so they can eventually manage their own attention spans. Here are a few solutions.


Use the ticket method. Each week, dole out a quantity of screen time tickets and let the kids “pay” to watch. Each ticket is worth 30 minutes of screen time or 50 cents. At the end of the week, whatever they didn’t spend gets converted to cash. This is a great way to motivate kids to be more discerning and self-regulating about screen time. Is it really worth that ticket? Or would they rather save the money? Make this system extra valuable by awarding additional screen time tickets for doing chores around the house.


Lock down their choices. If you aren’t concerned about regulating how much time the kids spend on screens, consider regulating the content instead. Stick to wholesome apps or channels such as JellyTelly, a fantastic resource for kids’ Christian entertainment, or YouTube Kids, an app that allows children to browse kid-friendly video content without the risky scenes of regular YouTube.


Create something else to do. If you really want to balance screen time, give the kids something better to do. Often kids will resort to screen time simply because they’re bored. So instead, plan fun family outings, encourage your kids to play outside or with friends, or create a “boredom jar.” Fill the jar with craft sticks, each labeled with an activity such as “make a bracelet,” “read a book,” “play piano” and so on. Every time the kids are tempted to default to TV, challenge them to pick a stick and do what it says.


Our children are growing up in a high-tech age where video plays a key role in both work and play. So ultimately, a parent’s goal shouldn’t be to prohibit screen time but rather to empower kids to manage it wisely. These are valuable lessons in temptation and self-control—qualities that matter for a lifetime.