How Moms Do: Screen Time

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How do moms decide on how much screen time for their kids? Here are a few ways moms address technology issues.

how moms do screen time

In my early parenting days, screen time was super easy to manage. We had no TV, and our computer accessed the web via dial up. Boom! Problem nonexistent.

When we entered the 21st century, however, things got a little tricky. Not only was I working via a screen, but my husband and sons experienced a lot of male bonding over video games and football and hockey broadcasts.

Screen time has become a hard thing for our family to manage, even since we gave up cable. Full disclosure: we own two PS3’s and a Wii while the boys have all bought their own DS and DS3’s over the years. Furthermore, there are two computers, two iPads, a laptop, and an iPad mini in the house. I think that means we have more screens than people. Gah!While it seems like screens would be running 24/7 with this many devices in the house, this is, thankfully, not the case. In fact, in order to make sure we didn’t have an all-night/all-day game fest going on, my husband wanted enough big gaming systems so that the kids could rotate in and out in a timely fashion, and then we could all unplug. (He bought the extra PS3 used for cheap.)

At this moment all six kids are out playing with the neighbors, FishPapa is at Lowe’s, and I am the only one in front of a screen.

That said, there are seasons when the screens can get overwhelming. My husband has a few PS3 games that he personally likes to play. And he’s gotten more than one child out of a funk by playing MarioKart with him or her.

I’ve read all the rules that folks lay down about screen time, and really, it changes with the season. We don’t have cable, and no child would turn on the TV to watch a movie without permission. We watch movies and shows as a family. A small handheld, well that’s another story.

Frozen Girls

I rely on my husband to set the tone for screen time in our house. It’s just not an area where I feel comfortable laying down the law, especially since he enjoys playing. No, honey, you can’t play today? Not gonna fly.

We’ve tried a number of different ways to handle gaming, from set hours during the summer, like 12 to 2, or an allowance. Currently, the kids are allowed one hour on school days — we’re doing school all summer long — and extra time on the weekends. If they have time to play a game, they have time to do math, though, so that will be sticking, as far as I’m concerned.

Occasionally, we call for a media fast, but it’s not on any special schedule or anything like that. Ours certainly isn’t the only way. Here’s how moms do it:


From Amy:

Screen time (and even reading) can be an easy fix when want your kids to be quiet and be entertained. I’m all over that at times, but remember that you want them to grow up to talk with you, too at some point… at least I hope you do!

Think of that the next time you are tempted to flip on a movie in the car or pass out the ipads… Can you talk about a few things first? Is learning how to deal with boredom really that bad?

When they are teenagers you are REALLY going to want to talk with them. If you build a habit of filling time with screens or other things, how will they know how to talk with you then? Like everything, balance is critical here, at least we have found it to be.

— Amy is mom to three, founding blogger at Mom’s Toolbox where she blogs about travel, lifestyle issues and reading the Bible and helps people find wines they enjoy as the Co-Founder and CEO of tech startup VineSleuth, Inc./ Wine4.Me.

Brenke - 125

From Rachel:

We only do screentime during the evenings if everyone has completed their chores. Often this is more of background noise as we talk with one another – it allow us to go through the kids one by one to talk with!

Rachel Brenke is an author, photographer, lawyer and business consultant for photographers and bloggers.

Jo-Lynne Shane - 125

From Jo-Lynne:

Ugh. Screen time is my nemesis. I do not believe it is good for kids, but sometimes a mom’s gotta do what a mom’s gotta do. Set some limits and try to stick to them, but do what you gotta do to get through the day. 🙂

– Jo-Lynne Shane is founder and editor of the award-winning lifestyle blog which bears her name (formerly Musings of a Housewife), where she shares her love of style and her passion for healthy living and family travel with a highly engaged female audience.

JessieLeigh - 125

From JessieLeigh:

I think I’m in the middle when it comes to screen time? I don’t even know. My kids watch very little television during the week, but up to two hours on a weekend day, particularly if there’s a movie involved.

My older two have Nook tablets and will sometimes spend 20-30 minutes playing a game of some sort. My oldest is ten, and none of them have (or need) phones.

I am a believer in moderation– I don’t think TV is evil, but I think playing outside or creating something is infinitely better. I typically advise against too much screen time, but I’ll also be the first to say there’s nothing wrong with letting your kids watch a show so you can grab a shower.

I honestly think you find your groove with this one over time.

– A mother of three, including a 24 week preemie, JessieLeigh is a determined advocate for even the tiniest of babies.

Connie - 125

From Connie:

The only electronic devices my children have are the items they buy with their own money. Even then, they turn these in on my bedside table each night, and are only allowed to use them when all their school work is done.

Only my teens are allowed to have social media accounts and I follow each of them and often stalk their friends to see what they are up to.

Connie is a former public school teacher turned homeschool mom of 8, ages 4-20 who blogs about parenting, large family living, homeschooling, and more, all with a touch of humor.

Prerna small

From Prerna:

Screen time isn’t something we struggle with since Manini has scheduled iPad access for 60 minutes on Saturdays and Sundays only. It’s how it’s always been, so she’s used to it.

She doesn’t play on the phone or any other gadget. And TV viewing is limited to 30 minutes during the day. So, it’s pretty sorted.

Do we always stick to this? Of course not! Sick days, holidays, days-when-everything-is-crazy call for exceptions, like watching a full-blown movie {aka Frozen, these days!!} but they are just that. Exceptions. Not the rule.

My advice would be to set time limits and boundaries on screen time, early on. Manini didn’t see much TV for the first 2 years or so, and later on it was always limited to a few minutes and has now extended to 30 minutes.

– You can find Prerna Malik cheering moms on at The Mom Writes and serving up good-for-your-business content at Social Media Direct.

Linsey Knerl - 125

From Linsey:

Screen time is tricky. As a work-at-home mom, I tend to push them into screen time more than they want, especially since many of their lessons are online. Finding hands-free ways to manage screen time (like the Kindle Free Time App) lets me manage their entertainment time better. We have moved into making sure that all of their screen time is somewhat educational. Movies or fun TV is usually watched as a family. It’s a battle every day.

– Linsey Knerl is a Nebraska Mom of 6, a freelance writer, and the passion behind, (the FAQ for work-at-home moms.)

Amy McGuire -125

From Amy:

My kids watch too much tv. They really do. But they also attend tons of community events, ballgames, and all manner of activities where they are… active. And social. And completely away from screens of any kind. They also have wrestling matches and dance offs and play dodge ball in our basement.

Sometimes I worry about how much screen time they have, but not enough to turn off the movie and interrupt whatever blessed quiet it gives me to get some things done.

– Amy is a mom of six, embracing the extraordinary in every day and sharing the crazy at Amy’s Finer Things.


From Deanna:

We used to do iPad time for the kids, but I soon realized that this was throwing their behavior off as they got rather obsessive about their iPad time. Now we do no iPad, but we still do the occasional Netflix show. Once again, I think moderation is key here.

I pack their schedule full of adventure and outside play. I feel okay about balancing this out with some down time watching movies on Netflix. My oldest and youngest have absolutely no interest in watching a show, but my 3 year old does.

My advice would be not to sweat it. Don’t make it a priority, but if this is the only thing that will give you a break to safely prepare dinner without children underfoot, then there is no shame in it.

– Parenting three kids five and under keeps Deanna quite busy, but there’s always enough time left at the end of the day to write all about the insanity in her award-winning blog Everything and Nothing from Essex.

How do YOU do it?

I’d love for you to share your experiences with us. Mine is the right way for ME, not the right way for every mom. Let us know how baby care worked/works for you!

About Jessica Fisher

I believe you can get great meals on the table -- and still keep that pretty smile on your face.

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  1. Sara K. says

    I would love to know how parents with only one child handle screen time. It is a constant struggle to get my 9-year-old to entertain herself without other kids to play with and without always needing Mom. I love to play games with my girl, but sometimes Mom just needs some down time! It is far too easy to turn the TV on and know she will be occupied for a while. I limit her to about 60 minutes of TV time during the week (she watches one show in the morning while we are eating breakfast and getting ready, and she’s only allowed 30 minutes in the evening). Weekends tend to be wide open. I try to get her out of the house, but sometimes I just have to be home (laundry, cleaning, and hopefully some rest!)

    • I obviously don’t have an only child, but I do have a nine-year old. I would sit with her and brainstorm some goals for her summer. Maybe she wants to learn how to knit or would like to write a short story or something like that. I would have no problem with a kid watching an online course about those things if it got them producing, growing, learning.

      Also, she could be helping you with the laundry and cleaning. Less time if you do it together. 🙂

      • We had an only child for 5 years until my little hungry one was born. I had the same problem. Playmates are the huge blessing I found when hectoring started kindergarten. Maybe a good friend coming over from school or co-op (homeschool) will help. Its certainly helped us.

    • I have one (nearly 7). We have always practiced “alone time.” I tell her we both need time off from each other so we can do something we enjoy alone, and take a break from interaction. What has really helped, is setting her room up in a way that she enjoys, and can reach the items she needs to make her room fun. Being sent to her room is not a punishment for her, but a joy. It’s a place where she has all of her fun items,and the freedom to chose what she wants to do. ?. It has taken consistent practice, but we both enjoy it now.

  2. This is such a battle for me. I feel like my 8 year old has a serious problem with screens, and if I let him, he truly would not stop playing video games all day long. We have a wii that is unplugged 90 percent of the time. We use it as a reward occasionally. He loves Minecraft and Clash of Clans on my phone, and these are the two I have the most trouble with. I feel like I am a mean mom sometimes, because I only let him play 30-40 minutes only after chores/homework etc. are finished. Right now I am making him take June off of any games, because I have such an issue with his behavior if he plays. Does anyone else have this problem? I feel like he is a different person after he plays, and cannot focus or listen for at least several hours, if not the rest of the day after he plays. He also cannot stop talking about these two games, and it truly is about the only thing on his mind. When I take a break like we are doing now, he asks me every day, multiple times a day if his time is almost up. It’s our number one struggle for sure, and I’m not sure if I am being too strict or not strict enough.

    • I think you’re doing the right thing. I’d be tempted to delete the apps from the phone, too. If he can’t do what he needs to do offline, then he can’t be on. That’s the policy at our house. I will pull the plug on anyone who gives me lip, doesn’t set a timer, etc. There are plenty of other things to do. I think the key to withholding it, though, is what to replace it with: outings, swimming, reading, games with you, etc. Good luck!

      • He definitely stays busy doing other things when he is not playing. I have a summer points system that he can do all sorts of activities or chores for points, including reading, having quiet time in his room, making a craft with his little brother, etc. Plus, he is a very active kid, playing baseball and on the swim team. I think my main concern is how it affects his behavior and what this means for him in the future, when he doesn’t have me monitoring him! 🙂

    • Guisela says

      Yes! My kid 7yo had changes of humor, even nightmares when he started to play in the iPad. Thankfully he had quited screen time by himself 🙂
      However, my teenager… He has a hard time turning off his screen, specially because “all his friends are allowed to do X or Y thing” . So, one of my mottos is “Each family makes their own rules”
      And at night at 7:30’pm EVERYBODY put their devices and TV remotes over my drawer in my room in silent mode. What can I say, there are cute ladies who want to talk to my boy after 11:00 pm!! Sorry not sorry.

  3. Sarah says

    Great topic! At our house, having set days has made a big difference. I used to struggle with my kids coming home every day asking “Can we watch?” or “Can we play?” – so I picked specific days of the week to allow screens, as well as length of time and what had to be done beforehand. It helped a TON. The hardest part seems to be getting my kids (esp my 8 yr old son) to END his screen time, so I’ve found that fewer times and longer amounts work better than short amounts more frequently (ie. Ipad 2 xs per week, 1 hr each vs. 4 – 30 min times).

  4. I have 5 kids ages 5 to 15. It often feels to me like we have a LOT of screens in the house, but compared to many of my kids friends… we really don’t. My kids currently have a Wii, 4 DS, 4 3DS, 4 tablets, 2 laptops and a smart phone (the oldest). My 2 oldest have the laptops and I got them against my will so to speak because they cannot do homework without a computer these days. Even my younger ones constantly come home with assignments on the computer for homework. It’s bad enough to fight my kids over screen time… it’s even more frustrating scwhen I have to fight the schools too. So I’ve accepted life in 2015, and loosened the reigns a bit.

    Our general rules are school days 7pm to bedtime (around 8:30) and nonschool days – before breakfast and again after 7pm until bedtime. This includes ANY screens… tv, video games, phones, tablets. My 15 year old is the hardest to manage because he doesn’t think texting his friends should be screen time. But I’m having a hard time adjusting to this newer form of socialization. I keep encouraging him to call or even walk down the street and interact? This is an ongoing discussion.

    Of course there are exceptions… rainy days, “mom wants quiet” days, etc. I often wonder if I am overly concerned? When I was a kids I watched a LOT of tv. I played my share of Atari. So did my husband. Our parents weren’t overly concerned. No we didn’t have internet, that is probably the biggest difference.

    I find I am more concerned about what my kids are doing at other people’s houses. They often come home from friends having spent the whole time playing video games or even worse…surfing the internet.

    This is the challenge for this generation… how to become responsible, productive, socially well adjusted adults alongside all of this technology. Perhaps growing up with it, our kids will do much better than we have. I go back and forth in a similar way I do about them eating sugar… I don’t want to limit them so much that when they are out of my sight, they gorge themselves…. but I don’t want to give them so much freedom that they rot their teeth.

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