When it comes to kids and screen time, it can be challenging to know how to set limits and encourage kids to have activities away from their screens for fun and learning. Creating a Family Media Plan walks you and your family through the process of defining what screen time is, when and where devices can be used, and alternatives to a TV, phone or computer when it comes to free-time.

Determine when and where screens are allowed.

Having areas and times that are “screen-free” is important. Work with your kids to come up with locations where screens aren’t allowed, such as the bedroom or the dining room table. Then, determine times during your family’s daily routine where devices are off-limits. This can be while doing homework, during mealtimes, or at school. Setting a device curfew may be helpful, too. Designate a place where devices will charge overnight, away from the bedroom.

Pick media that is worth their time.

It often helps to co-play or co-view content with your children. This can be playing on an app with your child or watching the same show as them. Co-interaction allows the chance to discuss what they are seeing and further the educational value of the moment! It also lets you see the content they are consuming. 

Discuss with your children how their screen time can be spent: video chatting with relatives, playing learning apps, making art, etc. Depending on your child’s age, stress the importance of using parent-approved websites.

Give your child options.

Face-to-face time with friends and family play an important role in child development. Talk with your child about all the activities they will have time for if they decrease their screen time. They could join a team, hang out with friends, sleep, or start a new hobby!

Discuss the importance of manners and safety online.

Set boundaries for your child while they are using their devices. Don’t share personal information online or text while crossing the street. Let them know that they can come to you or another trusted adult if they see something troubling or receive a message that makes them uncomfortable. 

I encourage families to use the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Family Media Plan template.

Pediatricians can help!

If you’re having trouble navigating the ins and outs of the digital world and how it applies to your child, you’re not alone. Your pediatrician or family care provider can help you learn more about your child’s development and provide resources to help your child learn and grow. 

Dr. Elisabeth Vanse is a pediatrician at Peak Vista Community Health Centers. Dr. Vanse is passionate about providing health care to families who have experienced barriers. “I strive to help patients and families feel understood and convey empathy,” comments Dr. Vanse, “I want each visit to be a time that families feel their needs are addressed.” In her spare time, Dr. Vanse likes to hike, mountain bike and spend time with her two teen daughters.