Joy’s Screen Time Limits

I just wrote a post about having the confidence to just say no to more and more screen time for our little ones. And how freeing, calming, and joyful it is to watch your children delve into a variety of activities on their own or with friends when they are not in front of a screen. Or the treasure of witnessing their imagination take off at such times!
I encouraged parents to stick to their screen time limits, even when tired or wanting an easy end to kid boredom. I fully believe you know the limits you want to instill, and I’m sure they’re perfect.  But if you’re interested in seeing how I went about it for my family, you can check out my limits below. I have no way to tell if my seven and nine-year-olds’ ability to enjoy alone time, play time with friends, waiting at restaurants, or travel in car or plane is because of their nature or because of their minimal screen time over the years. BUT, on the off chance that it IS an indication of life with less, trust me, IT’S WORTH IT.  It’s worth the struggle through those early years, or in breaking the screen habit before it has already begun. We are giving our children the life skill of learning to just BE without always being entertained, and to achieve their ability to entertain themselves. And that is a gift to them and to us. 

Our family’s screen time limits (which evolved as we went along!)

  1. No screens before 2 or 3 years old except video chats and quick family videos on the phone.
  2. For the next few years, one (22-28 minutes) show a week, like Curious George or Daniel Tiger.  We watch it WITH them. We also had fun just finding random three to five-minute videos online about their interests (like trains or cheetahs) instead of a show. 
  3. By 5 and 6 years old, two of those shows a week. Our favs were Animal Atlas, WildKratts, Magic Schoolbus. We would ask them about the show afterward as often as possible. 
  4. We let them choose how they spend their screen time. If they’d like to play a game or mess around with google maps, it’s the same amount of time as the show, therefore it takes the place of a show that week. 
  5. Movies at home for special times only, like when we’re sick, or on rainy days. Still seen WITH us, and we split those movies into two or three viewing sessions over two or three days. 
  6. Movies out in the theater, we went once or twice a year to environmental film festivals or such. Popular movie theater movies weren’t really ever discussed; they never knew what they were missing. Adult friends took one of them once when she was 6, she loved it, and never asked again. Perfect. 
  7. When young friends started talking about movies and songs they loved, we would watch the music videos on the computer and learn the songs and characters. We also found the books to many of those movies kids were watching, like Frozen
  8. After age 7, we started watching movies at home for family fun, like four a year. But still, we always have broken up the movie into parts when home.
  9. We enjoyed the whole movie in one sitting for event movies, like movie night at school, or outside projections, or a friend taking them to the theater, or when we’re at Grandma’s for a week with the cousins. We definitely made those special events all the more exciting, to see the big screen!
  10. No screens when friends are over or when we’re at friends’ places until about 7 years old. And even then- so rare.  I am grateful to have MANY friends and family who love to follow this limitation as well so it’s easy to maintain.
  11. After age 7, special events like the Olympics or World Cup are seen together with parents or adult friends in addition to the weekly shows and in moderation. 
  12. Never screens when babysitters come. Not why we’re paying them!

I hope you enjoy a peek into our family’s values regarding screen time. Making and creating limits is a part of life and teaching them limits when they are young is so important. You can do it! Stay tuned for my post about the importance of letting your kids get bored. As always, if you have any questions or comments, please leave them in the comments. 



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