How to set screen time rules for children

Child using tablet

Nowadays children are more likely to be swiping at a screen than playing outside or reading a book. Limiting your kids' screen time is a solution, but how do you do it? We've pulled together some top Mumsnetter tips to give you a helping hand

1. Remember, you're all in it together

1. Remember, you're all in it together

Be honest, how much time do you spend squinting at a screen? It's harder to expect your family to limit their screen time if you are surgically attached to your own smartphone. Reducing your own online addiction might be just as hard as prising the iPad out of your seven-year-old's clammy hands, but it's got to be done if you want to make a real impact. So if you're setting a two-hour screen limit for your children, then show you can be without yours occasionally too.

2. Open it up for discussion

2. Open it up for discussion

Taking screen time away or reducing time in front of the screen will probably be met with lots of screaming and shouting (and that's just your other half). Instead of making your children feel as if they're being penalised, explain why too much time in front of a screen can be a bad thing, for you and for them. It might be hard at first, but by talking and giving them a clear explanation, it may make that transition a little less bumpy (and a lot less shouty).

3. Keep family meals a screen-free zone

3. Keep family meals a screen-free zone

A family meal is often the one time of day you can all come together and share your news. Add a beeping iPhone or game into the mix and that key interaction takes a back seat. Make supper time a screen-free time, for kids and adults. This way you can all pay each other some much-needed attention, focusing on the food instead of Facetime.

4. Keep a family screen diary

4. Keep a family screen diary

Keeping a screen diary is a really helpful way to identify screen habits – and it can often be quite the eye-opener. For most of us, totting up the amount of time we spend on our phones or devices will probably result in an amount that's a lot longer than we think. Add in the amount of time our children and teens spend stuck to a screen, and you could help focus your mind on making some real changes throughout the household.

5. Find an alternative activity

5. Find an alternative activity

If you're scrapping screen time, what are you intending to replace it with? Organising fun family activities might get some eye rolls from your teenager, but once you're all out and about (with no screen in sight) you'll be surprised how quickly they forget to complain. Getting out of the house and getting active is one of the best ways to help your children temporarily forget about their online lives.

6. Keep screens in public not private

6. Keep screens in public not private

Whether it’s a TV, smartphone or a laptop, one thing most Mumsnetters agree on is that having kids online somewhere you are not is a recipe for disaster. Keep screens to areas where you can monitor what is being watched and know exactly what they are being exposed to and how long they're online for.

7. Repeat: screen time is a privilege, not a right

7. Repeat: screen time is a privilege, not a right

Screen time is a precious commodity in any family home, so it’s a good idea to attach some value to it, especially for younger children. A reward system means that children can earn screen time. For example, they can have 20 minutes screen time if they help set the table or tidy their rooms. Bartering might seem harsh, but they'll be learning responsibility at the same time.

ScreenLimit is an app that allows parents to instantly block access to sites or specific apps, schedule times of the day when devices can and cannot be used, send their children direct messages and reward them for good behaviour. The app includes a built-in reward system where children can earn ‘bonus’ screen time by completing set tasks. Aside from educational goals, this feature encourages children to take responsibility and earn their screen time. Find out more on the ScreenLimit website.