Still struggling to make screen time less of a fight? Check out these nine rules that you may want to consider implementing in your home.

Screen time is almost as hotly debated in homes as it is in the media and while it may be difficult to find what works best for your family, having the right rules in place can help the whole family enjoy screen time even more.

As a parent of four boys, I’ve learned how important it is to implement screen time rules in our family. My wife and I have learned that having rules in place is the easiest way to get a better reaction from all of our kids and minimize screen time tantrums or arguments.

I am constantly looking for ways to manage my children’s online experience in a way that can maximize its benefits for learning, while balancing their screen time exposure.

Discover more guidelines and resources concerning screen time here.

Why Screen Time Rules Matter

Kids today have access to many more screens than adults did at the same age and with that comes benefits and disadvantages. A huge wealth of information is available to kids and the answer to any question is just a quick Google search away. Entertainment can easily be accessed through streaming, video games, and apps and communication with friends and family all over the world can be accomplished in a matter of seconds.

The challenge with technology is that many kids are spending too much time online and are struggling to find a healthy balance. According to, “by their teens, kids spend nearly 7 hours a day using screened-based media, watching TV, playing video games, and using social media; this doesn't include additional time spent using screens at school or for homework."

Consider utilizing these nine rules to set your family on the right path when it comes to screen time consumption:

1. Custom Rules for Each Child

Every child is different and as such, different rules may be appropriate. Whether those differences come in age or in maturity, parents should take the time to carefully consider what will work for each of their children. Some kids may need more guidance as to what kind of content is appropriate, while others may just need better limitations as to how much screen time is okay.

2. Strive for Balance

Screen time is an amazing tool that can have so many uses and benefits for kids, but too much of anything is never a good thing. According to studies, increased screen time can lead to depression, higher BMIs, and poor sleep. Setting limits can teach your kids how to use screens and social media in a mindful way. Encourage your kids to have other interests and hobbies that don’t include tech and help them become more well-rounded individuals.

3. Use Technology to Reinforce Real Life Skills

Learning can be enriched with technology when used in moderation and it can be an effective tool in assisting with homework and further learning. The Internet and screens can also be a great place to learn valuable life skills. Kids can become better communicators, learn the values of team work while playing games, and it can even help kids build confidence as they earn badges or increase their score.

4. Actively Engage During Screen Time

Actively engaging with your kids during their screen time use can make it much more enriching for everyone involved. Not only do you and your kids get in some great bonding time but it’s great for parents to be able to understand what their children are doing online. Whether that’s playing a video game or learning about a new topic, it can be something that you both remember for the rest of your life.

5. Set Good Examples

You know how the old saying goes… “practice what you preach”. How we can expect our kids to follow rules if we are not doing the same? While standards and rules will vary a bit between different members of the family, there are some things that parents should make sure they are doing consistently. Make sure to minimize distractions from your phone so that you can fully be present when talking with or participating in an activity with your kids. Making eye contact and listening to what your children have communicated will set a proper example for phone etiquette.

6. Create Places and Times That are Tech-Free

Creating tech-free zones in your home is a great opportunity to allow for time and space to connect as a family. In the dining room and at meal times are great times for your family to all be together at once and talk about the day without the distraction of technology.

Bedrooms are also a great idea for a tech-free zone. Keeping bedrooms tech-free makes it easy to supervise what your family is doing online and also prevents kids from spending too much time scrolling through their phones late into the night.

7. Diversify Screen Time

While too much screen time in general isn’t a good thing, there are some benefits to making sure your family gets to experience a multitude of online activities. Games can be highly addicting and substituting forms of educational or entertainment screen time can be an easy way of hitting pause on addictive tendencies without taking away screen time altogether.

8. Use Technology as a Tool, Not a Crutch

Using technology as a babysitter to earn yourself a few free minutes in the afternoon can quickly go downhill. Technology is great way for both parents and kids to relax but depending on it too much can set your family up for tech addiction.

Without realizing it, adults and kids alike reach for screens and whenever we have a free second and it has become second nature for us to depend on our screens for entertainment, procrastination, and approval from our peers. Technology isn’t going anywhere, and we really don’t want it to, so we have to strive to find some middle ground where we can use technology in positive and fun ways without letting it consume us.

9. Do Your Homework

As important as it is to set rules for your kids regarding screen time and the type of content that you allow your kids to access, it is equally as important for parents to do their due diligence. Before agreeing to let your child download a new app, parents should take time to explore the apps, games, and social platforms that their kids are interested in using.

In doing so, you not only have the ability to determine if they are age and content appropriate, but you can also create the opportunity to connect with your child through the activities that engage them online or in-app.

Great resources are available such as parenting communities like our Zift Parent Portal, which provide the opportunity to read reviews written by other parents and engage with other parents on trending topics.

Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Screen Time?

As with almost everything, moderation is the key especially when it comes to screen time and there is such a thing as “too much screen time”. The main goal of app and game developers is to get users to continue to engage with their product for as long as they can. They carefully engineer features in most apps, games, and streaming platforms to entice our kids to continue scrolling and playing “just one more game”. Parents have the thankless task of teaching our children how to self-regulate themselves and to develop a more balanced relationship with technology.

As stated by the American Academy of Pediatrics, too much screen time can lead to myriad of issues including:

  • Less and lower quality sleep
  • Increased BMI
  • Technology addiction
  • Increased likelihood of being cyberbullied
  • Decreased cognitive development

UNICEF reports that “adolescents and young people are the most connected generation and that children under 18 represent 1 in 3 Internet users worldwide.” By creating rules and setting boundaries that work for your family, like we’ve done for our own, you are setting your children up for success both in family dynamics and their health.

Screen Time Recommendations for Kids

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), screen time recommendations vary for kids of different ages. Parents should avoid screen time for children 18 months and younger, but there is evidence to suggest that video chatting does provide benefits for kids at this age.

For children 2-5 years of age, it is recommended that parents limit screen time to only one hour of high-quality media each day. Parents should also take part in this media to help your children comprehend it better as well as learn how to apply in their own lives.

Lastly for children 6 and older, the AAP recommends that parents create consistent rules surrounding screen time use and ensure that the use of media is not taking a toll on otherwise healthy counterpart of their lives.

Is a Screen Time Tracker Right for My Family?

A screen time tracker can be useful for any family, especially since one of the most difficult parts of managing the digital lives of my own children is keeping up with what they’re doing online. Screen time tracking apps and software are improving and offering more and more customizable features to help your family.

Screen time trackers allow you to keep tabs on your kids while allowing them the freedom to explore all the Internet has to offer and enriching their own social lives. Screen time apps are created not to keep your kids offline but rather to make your lives easier while keeping them safe.

You know your kids best and understand firsthand what sort of structure they might need to have in place. There are mostly three kinds of screen time trackers available for families to use:

  • Spyware apps: Leaves your child with minimal privacy and grants parents access to view all text messages, photos, searches, and sometimes even keystroke information.
  • Visibility-only apps: Less strict then a spyware app. Different apps will offer varying insights and viewing abilities.
  • Screen time only apps: Allow parents to see how much time their child is spending on their devices.

These tracking softwares all differ in how and how much they track on your child’s device and how they can be customized to meet your own family’s needs. A free screen time tracker you may want to consider is our Zift app. With Zift, parents can block which apps, view online searches, schedule daily and weekly screen time use, and even pause the Internet. Zift act as a screen time parenting ally to help parents take the guesswork out of managing their child’s screen time activities.

Importance of Screen Time Rules

Screen time rules can be an often overlooked part of your family’s daily life but they are an easy tool to take the stress out of negotiating screen time. Like anything else, kids need guidance when it comes to screen time. Parents may also want to consider downloading our free Family Media Contract to help keep your family’s digital use under control.

Parenting is a journey that can be easier with the use of appropriate tools and support of other parents. Finding parenting communities and Facebook groups like Surviving Modern Parenting - Real Talk and Tips from Moms & Dads can help you navigate digital parenting. Incorporating some of the rules and guidelines suggested here, your family can take the first steps on the path to healthy technology use.

About David Savage

David Savage is a co-founder of Zift and the father of four boys, ages 6 to 12.