Tips for Establishing Household Screen Time Boundaries

Updated: Jan 21, 2020

If you are like me, you often want to throw all of the devices into the Pacific and go raise your children on a farm. But realistically, we cannot protect our children from the hazards of the internet and social media forever. The key is to help them stay safe and to develop a healthy relationship with the ever-changing technology that will be an integral part of their academic and social lives.

As a mom of two daughters, 11 and 17, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about screen time, social media, and which boundaries my husband and I want to set for our family. Here are my down and dirty, go-to suggestions for each age range. Consider implementing some, none or all of these in your home...

All ages

  • Ban phones/devices at the dinner table.

  • Skip phones/devices in restaurants.

  • Discourage phones/devices while watching a TV show or playing a game as a family.

  • Choose other fun times to unplug as a family at least once or twice per week.

Elementary School:

  • No phone.

  • No social media. Reminder: RoBlox and TikTok, while involving active creation, do have social media components of which to be aware.

  • Limit tablet or computer use to 1 hour per day.

  • Install parental controls.

  • Consider limited or no technology during the week.

  • TV rules can be different from other technology.

  • No administrator access to any devices.

Middle School:

  • Get first phone but no social media until the recommended age for each app.

  • No social media for the first year of having the phone (texting and group texting is hard enough to manage).

  • Discuss the do's and dont’s and your family rules regarding texting, selfies, phone etiquette, etc., and the reasons behind those rules.

  • Consider adding one social media option at a time and no more than one platform per year (e.g. if your child gets her phone in 6th, only texting in 6th, Instagram in 7th, one additional social media app in 8th).

*Discuss family rules and advice regarding social media usage.

  • No administrator access to any devices.

  • Install parental controls.

  • Monitor your child’s texts periodically.

  • Establish communication with parents of your child’s friends so you can help one another when inappropriate or worrisome communications happen via text. It takes a village, and these issues become teachable moments and crucial learning opportunities.

  • Continue to limit screen time during the week and on weekends.

*We implemented no iPad during the week for my 6th grader about halfway through the first semester and it made a huge difference! She could still watch TV after homework and she had access to her dumbed down iPhone (texting and games but no Internet).

*For example, the phone could be the only device enabled to text, the computer could be used for school purposes only, and the iPad could be used for games, videos, YouTube, etc.

  • Dumb down your tween’s devices:

*Hide Google and Safari on a smartphone. (video tutorial)

*Disable texting on an ipad or computer. (video tutorial)

*Set time limits for devices to go to sleep or for certain functions to go to sleep, e.g. between 9 pm and 7 am. (video tutorial)

*These tips help you limit your child’s tech access while still letting them “look cool” with a modified smartphone.

High School

  • Increase technology freedom over the years to prepare for full control in college.

  • Charge phone and computer outside of bedroom for 9th and 10th, but consider changing this for 11th and 12th to allow your teen to figure out her own pitfalls and problem solve.

  • Allow administrator access to devices starting in 9th or 10th grade.

  • Continue to monitor your child’s texts and social media platforms periodically, at least for 9th grade.

Ultimately, you get to decide what works for your family. For more tips, check out the resources from our team and colleagues below.

~Amy Hayutin Contreras, Partner

Hayutin & Associates


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