10 Strategies to Limit Your Teen's Screen Time

Set Limits on TV, Computers, Video Games, and Smartphones

Teenage boy texting on a smart phone
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Today’s teens have more media options than ever. A 2010 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 8 to 18 years olds devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes to entertainment media each day. That totals more than 53 hours per week.

The majority of those are spent ‘media multi-tasking’ where teens are using more than one medium at a time. For example, a teen may be watching TV and surfing the internet simultaneously.

When the study accounted for their multi-tasking efforts, they found that teens are actually exposed to about 10 hours and 45 minutes worth of media content each day.

Too much screen time can certainly cause a lot of problems for teens. It raises their risk of obesity, interferes with social activities and family time, and can even lead to an internet addiction. It’s important to take a proactive approach to limit your teen’s screen time. Here are some strategies to help you keep your teen’s screen time within healthy limits.

1. Make Screen Time a Privilege

Make it clear that screen time is a privilege that needs to be earned and can be taken away at any time. Teach your teen to do his homework and chores first and then allow him to watch TV or play on the computer only after he’s completed his responsibilities.

2. Role Model Healthy Habits

Telling your teen to shut off his electronics while you’re sitting in front of the TV isn’t likely to be effective.

Teens will learn more from what you do than what you say. Be a good role model by limiting your own screen time.

3. Discourage Multitasking

Most teens think they’re pretty good at multitasking. They try to text message while doing their homework or use social media while talking on the phone. Discourage your teen from doing two things at once and discuss how it can actually interfere with productivity.

4. Establish Clear Rules about Electronics

Most teens, especially younger teens, aren’t mature enough to handle free reign of their electronics. Establish rules that will keep your teen safe and help your teen make good choices with video games, cellphones, TVs, and computers.

5. Encourage Physical Activity

Most teens spend too much time doing sedentary activity. Encourage your teen to get some exercise. Going for a walk, playing a game of catch, or even doing some yard work can ensure your teen will get in physical activity. Participate with your teen to role model healthy habits.

6. Educate Your Teen About Media

Have frequent conversations about various aspects of media. For example, discuss how many advertisements target teens by trying to convince them that certain products will make them more attractive or more popular. Discuss the dangers of too much violence exposure and help them learn how to be an informed viewer.

7. Don’t Allow Electronics During Mealtimes

Shut off your TV during mealtimes and don’t allow text messaging or web surfing while you’re eating.

Instead, use the opportunity to talk about your day.

8. Create Screen-Free Days

Every once in a while it can be helpful to have a screen-free day. Don’t allow anyone to use their electronics. It’s a great way to ensure that everyone still has plenty of activities that don’t involve electronics.

9. Schedule Family Activities that Don’t Involve Electronics

Involve everyone in activities that don’t involve electronics. Whether you play a board game or go for a family hike, make it clear that during your time together there won’t be any electronic use.

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10. Hold Family Meetings to Discuss Screen Time

Schedule a family meeting to discuss screen time use. Allow your teen to give input about the rules or about what would be helpful. Work on problem-solving together and discuss how you can all work together to ensure that the family isn’t getting too much screen time.

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