Should you really be limiting screen time for your kids?

January 19, 2019

There is so much debate and controversy over screen times for children out there that it's almost enough to just give up caring. 


Is it harmful? Is it helpful? Who really knows for sure? 

How much is too much screen time? Is there a magic number of hours that is definitive for every family? Besides, what all counts as screen time? My kids use laptops every day at school to do their work, and at home for homework. My husband's business and our livelihood is dependent on technology and he's constantly in front of a screen either writing code or doing research. With this blog, I am now often in front of my own computer screen. So it seems like no matter how you look at it, harsh limits on screen time as a general rule just seems unrealistic for us.

I have seen so much online about limiting screen time for kids and parents, and I would agree with a lot of the principles and reasons why that would be a good idea. But the world is different than it used to be, we should embrace the technology we have, rather than demonize it. We live in a tech driven world and there is nothing inherently wrong with that. The problem comes when kids or adults become addicted and can't function without it. 

There are multiple things that our screens offer us and many of them are very beneficial and helpful. So when I read articles talking about hard limits on screen time for kids without much context as to what activity is actually being limited, it can cause a lot of confusion and we may begin to demonize the actual screen itself or technology as a whole. I am definitely guilty of this but have given up the fight and just submitted to the fact that I will be surrounded by tech and screens for the rest of my life. 

Are video games inherently bad? No, of course not. And they don't create violence or turn innocent children into psychopaths. But there are some video games that definitely normalize violence and desensitize young minds to it, which may help influence violent fantasies to become a reality. The issue isn't the "screen time" but the content. In my house, we play a lot of games. Pokemon, Minecraft, Little Big Planet, Bloxels, and other games that make you think, discover, work toward specific goals, and build or create. These are attributes I would like to foster in my kiddos.

Are YouTube videos inherently bad? Definitely not. Take the photo at the top of this page, for example. This is my younger son, Jonah, watching a Nerdy Nummies video on YouTube. He has a passion for baking that just grows with every video he watches. This is good content, which I will not be limiting. On the other hand, I have walked in on my boys watching a video on YouTube Kids that had extremely inappropriate language and images. On YouTube KIDS! So now we make sure we know what our kids are watching, and as long as we know the content creators are good clean family fun, why limit it just for limitings sake?

That's not to say that kids should have free reign on all things tech, we all know that's not true, but I have come to realize that it is just downright unrealistic to put specific time restraints on something so integral to our culture and future. There is a balance, though. Every family just needs to decide what that healthy balance is for them. Focus on the content of the screen time, and not just how much time they are spending on a screen.

One thing I have realized I was doing that I won't be doing anymore is using screen time as a reward. Having our kids "earn screen time" by doing specific chores may be teaching them how to work towards a goal, but in my house it was just putting the screens on a pedestal. They were thinking of screen time as a prized and coveted reward. I want to move them away from this kind of thinking and move them more to a mindset motivated by a desire to help out around the house and take care of their own responsibilities. This isn't the same as using screen time as a reward, it is a simple lesson in taking care of responsibilities before you get to "play." Adults know this, so we need to teach our kids. But we also know that all work and no play makes for a lousy existence. So we just try not to stress about it anymore.

It is our job as parents to teach our children good habits, ideally through modeling them, but also through good ol' conversation. 
Screens should enhance our lives, not take away from them. I always tell my boys, make sure you're loving people more than you're loving the screen.

So, should you really be limiting screen time for your kids? I don't think I can give a definitive yes or no. What I have decided for my family is that it shouldn't be so much about limiting the screen time as it should be about quality control. The amount of time we spend on screens (kids AND parents) is not nearly as important as what we are doing on the screens.


Raychel J

January 21, 2019 at 02:08 pm

Hey Ryan :) We usually just reward them with words of affirmation for completing their daily responsibilities, which at age 9 and 5, are pretty much just taking care of and cleaning up after themselves (which includes dishes and laundry). That may sound silly, but we are trying not to create a materialistic mindset that puts any "thing" above just doing what's right and taking care of responsibility. But we have also taken them to Target to pick board games if we notice they are being hardworking little dudes with great attitudes. But again, every family is different and every parent should use their best judgement. It's good to ask other parents what works for them, so you can try out a bunch of things and see what works best for you. And yes, there are options for you to handpick approved content for YouTube Kids. We have done this and it only allows them to access videos that we have already looked at and are ok with. It's pretty simple, just google YouTube Kids parental controls and settings.

Ryan A

January 19, 2019 at 10:20 pm

What do you use for rewards instead of screen time? Are there parental controls on YouTube that allow only certain creators to be displayed on the recommended column?

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