Managing Screen Time During the School Year

Updated: Sep 10, 2021

By: Dr. Kimberly Harrison

We live in a technology-based world, and a certain amount of use is appropriate and even helpful. Most schools have computer-based lessons, and electronic devices must be readily available. Beyond schoolwork, though, there is a gray area involving how much screen time is too much.

Considerable research has been conducted over the last 10 years, and most suggests that overall development can be stunted if leisure time solely consists of electronic interaction. Because of this, it is important for parents to monitor amounts of time for television, computer games, general Internet usage and social media.

Balance is the key. You can avoid overuse of electronics by requiring a balance of physical activity, social interaction, hobbies and screen time. To figure out what's best for your family, follow this plan to create a balanced leisure diet in the same way you might determine a healthy diet for eating.

Start by having a family meeting to discuss expectations for a balanced leisure schedule. Also, outline consequences for non-compliance. Next, determine a menu of leisure activities along with the average percentage of time you want your child or teen to include for each. For example, your menu could contain: physical activity (20 percent), inter- acting (live in person) with siblings or friends (30 percent), non-electronic hobbies (30 percent), and screen time (20 percent).

Next, take a look at an average week’s schedule and discuss how much time should be allotted for each leisure activity. For instance, if your children have 2 hours of free time after school, based on the above percentages, they would spend about 25 minutes doing a physical activity, 35 minutes playing with others, 35 minutes on a hobby, and have 25 minutes remaining for screen time.

Do the same for weekend usage, but on weekends the percentage needs a cap. Children under the age of 12 generally should have no more than one hour of screen time per day. Teens might earn up to two hours of screen time per day.

Develop a plan for monitoring usage. If you need, several services are available to monitor and control access.

Finally, make sure the plan is simple and in writing, and have parents and children sign it. This is an important step because it makes the plan a family agreement instead of just nagging.