Controlling Screen Time

I’m thinking back to a simpler time, the good ol’ days perhaps, of not having to set limits on screen time. Wasn’t life just a little less complex before the advent of the computer, not to mention xbox and wii and various games and apps? Most certainly it was simpler.

Recently I was asked how I control screen time in my home and what to suggest to get a 17-year-old son interested in something besides computer games.

Wow. Talk about tough questions.

In order to answer that question, I would need to know what the young man was missing out on while playing computer games. Was he not studying? Was he not helping with chores? Was he not reading for fun? Sometimes “mom lingo” is hard to comprehend via online message.

If I have a teen who isn’t doing what he is supposed to be doing where schoolwork and chores are concerned, that’s an issue right there no matter what else he was doing. Let’s get attitude towards schooling and taking care of chores straightened. That might mean withholding screen time. It will also involve a lot of expectation setting and monitoring by parents. Punishments and rewards should be given according to the resulting behavior.

Having a young person who is connected at the palms with his controller only becomes a negative when the student is not doing the things he should be doing. The “shoulds” are dependent on the parents’ expectations.

So my answer to any parent who wonders what to do about screen time issues is to ask a question:

What kind of behavior do you prefer to see from your student besides screen time? What is there you’d like him (or her) to be doing?

I prefer that my kids are reading, playing games together, sitting in their rooms thinking and daydreaming, or doing untethered-type things. But we don’t have a set screen time rule in our household other than before you log onto anything electronic, your chores and schoolwork must be done. Then use your judgment and enjoy some screen time.

The results of that have been acceptable to my husband and me. However, if one of the kids found it difficult to control their screen time and it got out of hand, we would bring it up in a conversation and suggest a boundary.

Being a parent is awesome because you’ve got ALL the control. Bahahahahaha! So use that to your advantage by setting reasonable expectations and enforcing them.

Hint: if kids have no other options, they will find something constructive to do.

The succinct answer to the question of how to set limits on screen time: decide what is acceptable to you, have a family meeting to present this information, get input from the family, consider their viewpoints, and then make the rule accordingly. If kids are not doing their work well and not pulling their weight with chores, then screen time is a great thing to lessen as a result.

Sincerely, trust your instincts. Don’t be afraid to be the parent! Set expectations and enforce them.

Oh, and we need to set good examples with screen time as parents.

Communication with and respect for our young adults is vital to a happy home. And the communication and respect go both ways. Modeling it is a great thing to do as a parent.


About the Author

Joanne Calderwood has been called America’s Homeschool Mom. She is an underwhelmed Mom of eight great kids, owner of, and an author and columnist. Her new book, The Self-Propelled Advantage: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Independent, Motivated Kids Who Learn with Excellence, enables parents to teach their kids to teach themselves with excellence.


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