Here’s How to Limit Screen Time (and Tantrums) for Your Preschooler

Gain control over every mother’s summertime nemesis: SCREENS.

Limit screen time (and tantrums) this summer. |

So have your children had their first major meltdown of the summer yet? Usually it happens right after you dare to limit screen time to something reasonable.

Don’t beat yourself up too much. It’s happening to every other parent on the block.  

Every parent feels stressed about summer screen time. Don’t make the mistake of trying to wing it. Let me help you plan ahead on how you’re going to limit screen time this summer.

This way the decisions are already made! They just have to follow the plan! (It’s not you that’s the bad guy…it’s the PLAN!)

The Smart Way to Limit Screen Time

Let’s face it. Tablets and Netflix are here to stay. The key in controlling this screen time snowball is to get ahead and catch it before it rolls down the mountain and destroys the entire town summer.

Repeat after me: Screen time isn’t a right, it’s a privilege.

Say it again. (Yes, it’s that important.)

The first step in learning how to limit screen time is to remember where it really fits in the big picture. Treat it as a reward for good work and creativity and your kids  will see it that way too.

That simple reminder (that it’s a privilege) will help you fight against the Guilt Monster that tricks you into letting the screen babysit or give in to their 1,001st pah-leeeeese?!

The smartest way to limit screen time is to implement a summer screen time plan NOW, that you can literally point at every time they need a “reminder” all summer long.

Smart Plans to Limit Screen Time #1:
The Bartering System

You and I both know it’s going to be a battle to get the kids to complete anything during the summer. Can’t you just hear the whining now?!

Our first strategy to limit screen time is to introduce our children to the art of the Bartering System. In other words, we’re going to trade the rewards they are looking for, with the tasks (chores, reading, etc) we’re looking for.

This is What THEY Want

Screen time. And lots of it.

This is What You Want

First, make a chore list detailing your basic daily and weekly expectations for the kids while they are home for the summer. Depending on their age, that may look like…

  1. Make your bed
  2. Get dressed
  3. Pick up your room
  4. Eat breakfast
  5. Brush your teeth
  6. Pull weeds
  7. Get the mail
  8. Set the table for breakfast/lunch/dinner
  9. Fold and put away laundry

There are a wide variety of ways you can track these chores. You can use a dry erase chorelist, one with picture magnets (for pre-readers), chore sticks, or even an award-winning chore system.

Next, make a list of fun summer activities you would like them to do before the screens come out.  Here are some ideas to get you thinking:

The Art of Compromise: Bartering

Decide how many of the things YOU want them to do need to be accomplished in order for them to get what THEY want.  (BTW, a great tracker to limit screen time is the ESET Parental Control App.)

For example, you could say that before your child can sit in front of a screen (tablet or tv), he or she needs to complete ___ number of daily chores to earn ___ minutes of screen time.

Then, if they complete a weekly chore, give them some bonus screen time as a reward.

Smart Plans to Limit Screen Time #2:
The Budgeting System

The Budgeting System to limit screen time is perfect for older kids. You know, the ones who tend to push the hardest for more electronics.

Each day you will hand out all of the allotted screen time amounts to each child like wonderful pieces of screen-candy to savor all day long.  

Wait, what?!

Yep that’s right. Giving your kids the responsibility of deciding how and when they’d like to use screen time each day is actually a really great parenting technique! Look at all the things you’re teaching them:

  • Time Management: Being able to decide what is the best use of their time.
  • Balancing Instant Gratification: Do they want to use it all up in the morning for a few cartoons or save it up for an afternoon movie or game? What do those choices feel like later on?
  • Learning How To Prioritize: Screen time may not be as important to them as other activities they want to do during the summer.

Here’s how to make the Budgeting System to limit screen time work.

Step #1: Set the Minutes

First, decide how much daily screen time you want to allow for each child. Depending on the child’s age, there might be different allotted amounts of time.

To help you figure this out, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children:

  • Younger than 18 months should avoid screen time.
  • 2-5 years old should be limited to 1 hour of daily screen time.
  • 6 and older can be limited to 2 hours of daily screen time or decided by parental discretion

Got your magic screen-time number figured out?

Step #2: Hand Out The Minutes

Using a smart screen tracker like ESET Parental Control App, let them decide how to use their screen time minutes during the day.

The best part about ESET Parental Control App is that it will automatically shut down the screen when their time limit has been reached for the day.

Or, if you’d rather they had something tangible to keep track of their minutes, something they can actually touch use these Screen Time Tokens or colorful hourglass timers.

Step #3: Reward Restraint with CASH

They can use all their allotted daily minutes, OR they can choose to “cash in” their unused screen time minutes for actual cash at the end of the week! This will help them:

  1. Learn the value of choosing something more rewarding.
  2. Save for long-term goals.
  3. Choose less screen time.

You just have to decide how many minutes they need to save in order to cash out. For example, 15 minutes = $1.00, etc.

See what’s happening? You are doing more than just saying “NO!” every ten minutes! You are teaching big life lessons at the same time! You go, gurl!

Summer Screen Time Exceptions

Obviously, there are going to be sick days, long trips to Grandma’s and other exceptions to the rules. Just remember to get creative on how to keep the overall system in place as much as possible. If you make too many exceptions, you’ll get stuck back in Tantrumland again!

Going to the museum? Check off two boxes for learning something new and playing for 1 hour.

Family pizza and movie night? Treat everyone to a fun evening no matter what the completion of tasks were that day or whether they used up all their allotted screen time.

Going on vacation? Adjust your screen time method for the week with new activities and chores depending on where you go.

Is your child sick? Ditch all the requirements but maybe one or two (reading and a nap!) and let them veg out in front of a screen while your child’s body works hard to recover.

See? It’s Possible to Limit Screen Time and Still Have Happy Kids!

You’ve done it Mom!

High five!

You’ve found your ticket to a smooth and satisfying summer! No need to worry about giving into the whining and screaming that will surely ensue when the children are begging for screen time.

You’ve worked hard to establish expectations and provide incentives to limit screen time in the summer.

Now when their sweet little eyes pop open with screen time excitement dancing through their heads, you’ll be out on the front porch peacefully sipping your morning coffee because screen time ain’t got nothin’ on you.

Ahhh…the invigorating sweet taste of victory! Fun summer memories are well on their way with just the perfect dash of screen time!

Mom: 1
Screen time: 0

And that’s how it’s done!

*Mic Drop*

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