10 Strategies to Limit Your Teen's Screen Time

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

Set healthy limits on your teen's screen time.
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Without adult guidance, most teenagers would spend almost all their waking hours behind a screen. Whether they're texting on their smartphones, or they're watching videos on their laptops, their electronics use can easily get out of control.

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,' meaning teens are using more than one medium at a time—like watching TV and scrolling through social media 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 has been linked to a variety of problems. Excessive electronics use raises the risk of obesity, interferes with social activities and family time, and takes a toll on a teen's mental health

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 homework and chores first, before he turns on the TV or plays on the computer. 

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 multitasking actually interfere with productivity.

4. Establish Clear Rules about Electronics

Most teens, especially younger teens, aren’t mature enough to handle free reign with 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

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. Discuss how advertisements often try to convince young people 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. You might even consider a longer digital detox—like a week-long vacation from electronics twice a year.

 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.

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 screen time rules. Address problems and problem-solving together. Make it clear that you want everyone in the family to develop a healthy relationship with electronics.


Babic MJ, Smith JJ, Morgan PJ, Eather N, Plotnikoff RC, Lubans DR. Longitudinal associations between changes in screen-time and mental health outcomes in adolescentsMental Health and Physical Activity. 2017;12:124-131.

Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. ​Published January 20, 2010.

Where We Stand: Screen Time. HealthyChildren.org. Published November 21, 2016.

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