Setting Boundaries: Establishing Healthy Screen Time Limits for Children

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Setting Boundaries: Establishing Healthy Screen Time Limits for Children

June 21, 2024

Setting boundaries around screen time for children has become critical in protecting them in a digital world. Without boundaries, excessive screen time can have detrimental effects on children’s physical health, mental well-being, and overall development. Pew Research Center performed a survey in March 2024 on 1,453 teens between the ages of 13 and 17.  Based on their findings, here are some suggestions we think will help parents in taking healthy steps to set boundaries for their children and technology.

1. Lead by Example

Parents should model healthy screen time behavior by being mindful of their own technology use, especially when interacting with their children. Out of the 1,453 teens Pew Research Center surveyed, nearly half (46%) said their parents are at least sometimes distracted by their phone when they’re trying to talk to them. This highlights a significant challenge faced by many families today: the struggle to maintain meaningful connections amidst the constant pull of digital devices.  If parents want to lead by example, they cannot send messages to their children that screen time is more important than real-life interactions, instead parents should prioritize face-to-face interactions and limit their own screen time to demonstrate the importance of presence and engagement.

2. Establish Clear Rules and Routines

There is an awareness among adolescents about the potential negative impacts of excessive screen time on their wellbeing as roughly six in ten teens (57%) who admit they are on social media too much say they have cut back.  One effective strategy for helping children manage their screen time is to create rules and routines that become a guideline for them to follow. This could look like screen-free times, perhaps during meals or before bed. Consistent routines provide a sense of predictability and stability, which can be comforting for children as they navigate the challenges of balancing technology use with other activities.

3. Encourage Diverse Activities

Encourage children to engage in a variety of activities beyond screens, such as outdoor play, sports, reading, arts and crafts, or spending time with family and friends. Help them discover activities that bring them joy and fulfillment that deter them from the need to pick up their phone. Engaging in meaningful offline activities can also help alleviate feelings of anxiety or restlessness associated with excessive screen time, with 72% of U.S teens saying they often or sometimes feel peaceful when they don’t have their smartphone.

As these steps are followed regularly monitor your child’s screen time habits and be willing to adjust boundaries as needed. Invite them into your conversation about the importance of healthy screen time habits to help them develop a positive relationship with their technology.