How to Create a Screen-Time Schedule for Your Kids
How to Create a Screen-Time Schedule for Your Kids

by Jeremy Cleland

I’m a Gen X-er who grew up stationed in front of the TV with no adult supervision or concern. However, now that I’m a dad myself, the concept of “screen time” for my 5-year-old son is a new frontier, especially when we endured the cold winters stuck inside in New York, and the idea of limiting his screen time seemed like purgatory for the both of us.

But as parents of younger kids, monitoring screen time is now part of our job. Kids under age 8 spend about two hours per day using screens and increasingly access content via a tablet or smartphone, according to Common Sense Media’s report, “Zero to Eight: Children’s Media Use in America, 2013.” Playing games, using apps, watching videos, watching TV/movies and reading books — in that order — are the most popular activities kids do during their screen time.

So, how do you make a plan for screen time that allows for enriching activities — and some much needed downtime for kids — while balancing their other needs and responsibilities (like non-screen-related homework or exercise)?

Here’s how to make a screen-time schedule for not just your kids, but you, too:

1. Take stock of your child’s current schedule

Write out your child’s Monday to Sunday schedule, and ask yourself what is needed, what is healthy and what is required. Is there time for your child to recharge in healthy ways like playing, sleep or through unstructured hangouts with the family? Think about the best windows for screen time and the purpose, like entertainment, or helping them stay occupied while you make dinner, or learning.

2. Consider aligning your time

Put some thought into when you can actually sit down and spend screen time with your child. For example, maybe you set aside a family movie night, or time to explore a topic they’re learning about at school.

3. Co-create a schedule

Talk with your child about what they enjoy about their screen time, and how they would like the schedule to work. Then share how much screen time they’ll be allowed and when — negotiate a bit so you get their buy-in, offering a few choices to select from. Create, decorate and post the schedule together.

4. Add an agreement

Now is a good time to talk about what is and isn’t appropriate when using your family’s devices, and to make your agreement more concrete. You can use this template for grades K-5 from Common Sense.

5. Stick to the boundaries

Monitor the schedule closely for the first few weeks to make sure your family is sticking to it. You may even want to plan some fun offline activities that wean your kids away from the screens as they adjust. Also, you can use your device settings or an app like ScreenTime to automatically shut off devices after the screen-time allowance has ended.

With just a little planning, it can be easy to come up with a screen schedule both you and your kids will agree with.


Jeremy Cleland has been a spokesperson for several Silicon Valley startups, like Tesla Motors, and spearheaded global stories about technology featured in media like Vice, Time magazine, Forbes and He’s also the dad to a 5-year-old who is already more tech-savvy than him.

Article: Copyright © Studio One.

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