Setting a screen routine

Quite simply, good digital parenting begins with boundary-setting. Your children will be coming of age in an online world. Just pulling the plug on their devices, or barring them from the Internet entirely, is no longer a viable option- or even a desirable one. Here are our top tips on developing and implementing a screen routine that works for your family.

Written by Cyber Expert:

Taryn Wren

ICT Teacher

Positive digital parenting means managing your family’s technology in a way that enhances - not monopolises - your child’s life and learning. But striking the right balance is no easy task. 

Every child is different and exactly what boundaries you draw around your child’s screen- time will depend on many factors: chronological age, developmental stage, persona, school and extracurricular commitments, sleep and waking times, and of course your own beliefs and values. As explained in our Parent’s Guide, when it comes to screen-time quality should dictate quantity. But for parents wanting to know where to start, we’ve put together some general screen-time recommendations and sample screen routines below.

Age-based daily screen-time recommendations

In 2019, the World Health Organisation (WHO) weighed in on the screen-time debate, providing a set of age-based screen-time recommendations for infants and young children considering physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep needs. A summary of these recommendations along with those of the American Academy of Pediatrics and Australian guidelines are provided below.

Age Screen-time Recommendation
1 year and under Screen-time is not recommended. Sedentary activities such as reading and storytelling are encouraged instead.
2-4 years old Sedentary screen time should be no more than 1 hour. Less is better and any screen-time should be limited to quality education-rich content.
Older children Aim for no more than 2 hours per day. Focus on content quality and don’t let media displace other important activities such as quality sleep, regular exercise, family meals, “unplugged” downtime.

Sample screen routines

When it comes to screen-time management strategies, picking a daily screen-time “limit” is only one piece of the puzzle. Daily routines, transitions, family rules, and content/activity expectations all inform routine setting. Some things to consider:

Routine: Screen-time should be scheduled around other commitments such as school, sport, and family time, and not the other way around.

Content and Activities: Routines should be explicit with regard to what screen-based activities children can engage in during their allocated screen-time. 

Transitions: Getting kids off their screens can be a struggle for many parents. A transition activity is another task that you have ready to go at the conclusion of your child’s screen-time (for example, bath time or walking the dog). Planned transitions make it easier for your child to wrap-up their screen time. If your child is notorious for their techno tantrums, don’t make your life difficult by scheduling their gaming time leading up to when you need them out the door and off to school.

Sample Screen-Routine Templates:

Kindergartener

Primary Schooler

Tween/Early Teen

Troubleshooting

Trying to retrospectively implement boundaries around your child’s screen-time and not sure where to start, or how to get them on-board? Try our troubleshooting approach.

01.
Observe the current routine

Observe approximately how much leisure screen time your child currently has per day (refrain from making drastic reductions in one hit... it will result in mutiny).

02.
Consider the signs

Consider whether your child is exhibiting the signs below and if so, do you feel that their screen-time is contributing to the issue(s)? 

  • Less interest in social activities like meeting friends or playing sport 
  • Not doing so well at school 
  • Tiredness, sleep disturbance, headaches, eye strain 
  • Changes in eating patterns 
  • Reduced personal hygiene 
  • Obsession with particular websites or games 
  • Extreme anger when being asked to take a break from online activity 
  • Appearing anxious or irritable when away from the computer 
  • Becoming withdrawn from friends and family
03.
Identify a need for change

If you answered no to the previous, then your child's existing screen time habits may not require change. If, however, you believe that your child's existing screen-time habits may be problematic, you may consider implementing the following steps.

04.
Ask questions and listen

Explain your concerns and ask for your child's feedback. See if you can come to an agreement on how to manage your concerns whilst ensuring your child is able to participate in the online activities that are important to them.

05.
Make gradual changes to their screen-time using a routine

Ensure you are replacing any screen-time you take away from your child with an alternative activity that is of value to them (for example, quality time with friends or family). This should help make the transition period easier for the both of you.

Further information

Nagging

“Everyone else has Snapchat!”
“I’m the only one in my class not allowed to play Fortnite!”

Digital Tantrums

How to tame the techno tantrum in 3 simple steps.

Guides for setting up parental controls

Set up parental controls on your devices and operating systems manually.