Wednesday, April 22, 2015

on screen time

Screen time isn't a big deal at our house. My kids don't earn it. We don't keep track of it. We don't strictly limit it. Of course they participate in it. They are children of the 21st century, after all. In fact, Elliot is watching Woody Wood Pecker on the iPad as I type this post. After spending the morning reading books on the couch with Stella and running errands with me, he has a few minutes before he leaves for preschool, so he watches a cartoon. No big deal.

My children watch shows, they play games, they decompress after a long day at school on the computer or the iPad. And when I feel like they've spent enough time with a screen, we do something else. Rather than keeping to a schedule, or a chart or a system, I rely on my intuition, or the spirit. I pause for a second before I give my answer. Sometimes the answer is no, and they will fuss for a few minutes, but they always, always find something else to do and are happily engaged soon after. Sometimes the answer is yes, and that's ok.

I read some interesting articles recently that really resonated with me on why limiting screen time doesn't necessarily work. The author suggest that it is all about scarcity and abundance, and how making screen time feel like a treat makes everything else you want your kids doing (like reading or playing outside) seem like broccoli. She says it so much better than I ever could.

How to Stop Fighting about Screen Time

Why I Don't Worry about My Kids' Screen Time, part 1

Have you read those articles? What did you think? I'd love to hear what works at your house.


  1. Love this, thank you!
    Any thoughts on what age you like to introduce a cell phone to your tween/teen?
    Our 13 yr old daughter, has an iPhone with internet restrictions.
    It's been trickier than I thought managing it.
    At what age is texting boys ok, Instagram with teens?!?

    Also, a little off subject, but do you do any type of allowance for your children?
    More for the purpose of teaching them about tithing, saving, and spending money.
    You are so good to keep on budget in your own life, any tips you could share
    on how you manage your family budget. What do you use to keep track?
    Daily, Weekly, Monthly, a notebook, a computer program, an app?

    Thanks again for such a great blog, being an inspired mother, and sharing it with all of us!

  2. I completely agree. It is the same way in my house :) I follow my own intition and the spirit and things run so smoothly. Trying to enforce time limits and such is just so aggravating and unnatural to me.

  3. I fall somewhere in the middle. My children don't really have to earn it, but they do have to get their daily chore and homework finished before they can have screen time. As for time limits, we've never told the kids how much they can have a day, but I sort of keep track, and will usually ask my oldest to turn it off after 30 minutes.

  4. My daughter is 19 now so we're past all of this, but I never set limits - like you, relied on my own intuition. I rarely paid attention to articles because there's a whole host of "experts" out there, but to me, parenting is very much an individual experience and no two families are alike. ;)

  5. So much to think about-I think there is a lot I disagree with (skills and mastery in video games? they don't exist), and the best way to learn to ride a bike is not watching endless YouTube videos-it's getting outside and getting yourself on a bike!), but I DO agree with deciding as a family what to accentuate-creating family habits and a culture that accentuates and supports the good-outdoor play, productive play and work (playing video games produces nothing, not even plain old thoughts.). It's all about habits-habits that get carried into adulthood. And what we place importance on. I could never be OK with my child-at any age-staring at a screen for hours and hours playing Minecraft. I just can't. If they were learning Photoshop? Yes.

    I also think the author does not have teenagers yet-the teen brain is wired differently-especially boy's brains. Teenage girls-are they on social media yet? A whole different ball game. Do they have IPhones, gaming systems, yet?

    I think it's easy to walk away from that article and think, "No restriction is the secret." BUT there are a ton of variables, and she does actually restrict-most of the day. And I imagine they don't fall asleep with devices. And she wouldn't be okay with the mastery of Grand Theft Auto. There is a lot of consideration into what she allows and brings into her home, and once the kids are exposed to more and more as they grow, maybe the attitude of abundance will change? I don't know. I think it's different with homeschooling also.

    Such a great thoughtful article,-thanks Stephanie. (Charts and "an hour a day" never worked for me-I'd forget or hear "but i'm in the middle of a battle, one more minute!" way too often! I love how you said you rely on your intuition and spirit.)

  6. We handle screen time the same way as you do. My kids love to play games on the iPad, but there are some days when they just play outside and never even get on a device.

  7. I used to do a set number of movie tokens per week. Each token was worth a show. We would take away a token for bad behavior. But then there was such a focus on those silly coins and gave too much attention to something that we were trying to give less attention to! I find that using that intuition and spirit that you mentioned is the best for us also. We won't allow video games or anything like it, but thankfully our kids haven't gotten old enough to figure out that they even exist. I guess we'll deal with that as it happens, but I cross my fingers that they just won't even care or be interested in spending their time on those things.

  8. Hi there just recently became a reader...

    I love how you said guidance by the spirit and your intuition. For me that was what was telling me to make it not at all in our house. So my kids are 1, 3 and 5. The eldest are wild boys! But sweet and loving and fun. It just hit me that they crave physical and movement and using their brains and asking questions. When a tv was on or a device in hand everything went dead - like a light switch turning off. And it was never like a better feeling afterwards either. They were moody and agressive even more. So it is very personal - each to their own but for us no tv at all, no phones or ipads in sight and family movie night once a week. It is incredible that it actually works for us - The house is noisy and busy but the dead silence thing freaked me out more :)


Hello! Thank you for your comment. I'd love to respond, and it is much easier if your account is linked to your email address. Or, you could just email me at Thank you!