Parenting over 5 years ago by Liz Adams

Mom Talk: How We Manage Screen Time with Our Kids

Favorite Holiday PJs for Kids

One of my greatest pain points as a parent is managing screen time with Charlie and Jack. Jack isn’t really an issue yet but if we let Charlie run with it, he will demand the screen every day, all day. I’ve talked to so many people about it – friends, other parents with kids of a similar age, our pediatrician, the guy at the Apple store – it is definitely a topic of discussion with parents these days!

I’m excited to team up with some of my favorite mom friends (I feel lucky to say that all of these women are actually my friends) to share our thoughts on this topic! All of us will be posting on the same topic and hoping to make this a continuous motherhood series if you enjoy it! Be sure to pop over to their blogs to read their thoughts on managing screen time:

Julia of Lemon Stripes

Liz of Pure Joy Home

Danielle of Danielle Moss

Kelly of Kelly in the City

Honestly, I have a love/hate relationship with screen time. I love it when I need it but I hate when my kids ask for it. #momproblems If we give an inch, Charlie will take a mile so we try to control it the best that we can. In the past couple months it feels like we’ve actually found our groove with managing the beloved tablet/TV so I thought I’d share the best habits we’ve implemented!

How We Manage Screen Time with Our Kids

There’s no doubt that times have changed. I still feel a tiny bit of judgement from my parents every time we offer the phone or iPad to Charlie when times are tough. I think the biggest thing to come to terms with as a parent is that the future of our kids will involve screen time. The way they grow up will be much different than how we grew up and we can choose to encourage them to watch the things that are good for them or not. 

In 2018 I was excited to start a relationship with YouTube Kids (if you didn’t know, YouTube has a kids app and it is awesome!) as part of their Parent Panel. The conversation of screen time came up numerous times during our discussion with other parents. We’ve talked to many professionals on the topic and I truly feel like I’ve heard it from all sides. When it comes to screen time, there are great options for our kids to watch. Disney movies from our childhood, informative videos on YouTube Kids, shows that teach emotion and so much more. I think the first step in managing screen time is being comfortable in what your kids are watching and knowing that when the do have screen time, it is productive screen time. 

Our goal is to only allow Charlie 30-60 minutes of screen time a day. We prefer for screen time to be on our TV so it is a family affair but we have certain negotiations like if he poops on the potty, he can watch our phones or if he is having a rough morning he can watch on the way to school (this is aside from travel days and when we are out to dinner and we are desperate!). We also watch 30 minutes of something before bedtime to decompress and cuddle on the couch. Although, some days we push this – like on weekends or days when Charlie is home from school and I have to finish some work. Sometimes the screen is a tool to distract and accomplish and that’s okay. 

Dave and I agree that if we ignore Charlie’s request to watch a show, in a few minutes he will move on. In most cases (with a toddler), ignoring his request eventually leads to him forgetting the request. Dealing with a toddler is no joke but luckily his attention span is about 3 minutes 😉 After months of negotiating we’ve learned it is best to let him realize the boundaries himself. We also make sure that when we are at home, screen time is on the TV. I hate when my kids are sitting on the couch next to us on a phone or iPad. We try to make it a group effort whenever possible! 

Another huge factor in the obsession with screen time is making sure that we are always leading by example. Honestly this is sometimes a challenge given that we both work for ourselves so we have two rules. NO phones in the morning with the kids (if one of us has to get work done or respond to emails then we do it in bed!) and no phones after 4:30pm unless we have to. When I say no phones, checking a quick email here or there is fine but we aren’t mindlessly scrolling through instagram for 20 minutes. The less our phones are around, the less of a topic of conversation they become. You’ve probably noticed that Charlie isn’t as active on my IG stories (ha, sounds silly) because we truly don’t like to be on our phones with him. 

If you need some new show ideas: Charlie and Jack love Coco and Moana and Charlie is obsessed with YouTube Kids (specifically Blippi and Gabe + Garrett), Masha and The Bear (Netflix), Curious George, Shrek and a few more. 

The struggle is real but giving in doesn’t make us bad parents. When I think of the time my kids spend watching the screen vs. experiencing life – I think Dave and I are doing a pretty good job. 

PS: If you haven’t downloaded the YouTube Kids App, you must! Far better if you’re currently allowing your kids to watch the regular YouTube App. All of the content is created only for kids and there are parental controls so you can restrict any content you’d like. You can also create individual profiles for each child! 

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  1. I’m totally a proponent of limiting screen time, not so much because I think the TV/computer is so terrible, but because it takes away from time that they are outside running around, playing with friends etc.. I’d totally encourage people to be pretty vigilant about it because once the TV watching and especially video gaming for the boys (not as much of a problem for the girls) starts, it’s very tough to cut back again. Around 1st grade when they really start going to friend’s houses on their own (without mom) seems to be when all that stuff really ramps up. Say you on Kelly In The City. You have a beautiful blog.
    x, Julie |

  2. Ever since my husband and I watched this TED talk:

    we do not allow our daughter to watch YouTube kids or YouTube in general except when we are monitoring it directly as she loves to watch Indian dances on YouTube. We found that she would watch those DUMB videos of kids playing with toys, opening toy packages, playing with play-doh, and it was addictive and mesmerizing for her. The TED talk sealed the deal as far as no more YouTube. We only allow her to watch certain shows/movies on Netflix now.

  3. Yes to all of this as a fellow three year old mom. All about balance! Thank you for sharing such an honest account of this!!

  4. Thank you for this post. Children are not in the cards for my husband and I so we shower our love to our beautiful 4 yr. old chocolate lab Kahlua. Thank you for listening to your followers and sharing the life of sweet Webster. You are my favorite blogger as I, myself, is from Chicago and miss it everyday. Thank you for opening up your world to us all!