You know the recommendations on how much screen time your child should get and what types of quality screen media your child should stick to. Your next step is to create a family screen plan. While Jellies has some features focused on managing screen time, a family screen plan helps to make sure every family member is on the same page. The plan communicates what is expected and what isn't acceptable regarding screen usage in and outside your home. It encourages you to take note of what media, like kids videos, your children are consuming and think about what makes the most sense for you and your family.
This article outlines the key considerations you should address when crafting your own family screen plan. It also offers links to interactive resources that make it easier to outline your family screen rules.
Set Rules For When and Where Your Child Can Use Screens
You can reinforce family social time by making certain parts of the day and areas of the home off-limits to screens. For example, if your family uses mealtimes as social moments, you can forbid devices and screens from the kitchen and dinner table during dinnertime. You should also set a screen curfew before bedtime in order to promote healthy sleep. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends taking the devices to charge overnight so your child isn't tempted to use them after it's lights out. They also suggest starting this curfew an hour before bedtime.
Beyond social interaction and sleep, you also need to incorporate rules that promote playtime, exploration, and learning without a screen. Think about encouraging solo play and quiet moments by making the child's bedroom a screen-free zone. Consider keeping screens out of strollers so children can focus on exploring and interacting with the world outside their home when on walks and trips to the store.
Whatever areas and times you allow your family to use screens, make sure these moments occur in “public” places within the home so you can make sure your child isn't viewing anything inappropriate.
Limit Your Child's Screen Time
AAP's latest screen time guidelines recommend limiting your child's screen time based on his or her age. At a glance, the restrictions say:
- No screen time for children under 18 months.
- Limited screen time for children between 18-24 months.
- One hour a day for children between 2-5 years.
We go more in-depth about what these screen time limits mean in Are My Kids Getting Too Much Screen Time?
Whether you follow these guidelines, it's very important that you balance all your child's activities. Aim to provide your child with plenty of opportunities for human interaction, as well as structured and unstructured playtime.
Designate Kid-Friendly, Appropriate Content For Your Family
The best content for your child will largely depend on your child's age. On a whole, your child should be consuming screen content that not only educates, but inspires creativity, imagination, proper social interaction, good values, and healthy movement. But your child's cognitive, social, and emotional development will have a big say in the way your child processes and interprets content on the screen. For example, the videos that appeal to 2-year-olds will likely not interest 5-year-olds and vice versa. We go into this in more detail in What Videos Are Right for My Child?
You may want to further filter screen content depending on the time of day. For example, you should avoid more intense content in the evening when your child should be calming down for bed. You'll also want to designate which types of content you don't want your child engaging with at any time. This could vary, based on your own values. Some families might prefer to restrict videos with intense imagery and language, child celebrities, unboxings, toy play, and more. We go into the merits (or lack of) in these types of videos in 5 Types of Kids Videos to Avoid.
Decide the Extent of Your Supervision
There are different ways you can monitor and participate in your child's screen usage. Some common strategies include:
Passively watching with your child. This is usually done while completing other tasks or chores and keeping one eye on the screen. You're not actively engaged in the content like your child is.
Actively watching alongside your child. You're also consuming the media. You're asking your child questions about what he or she is watching, and reinforcing the positive images and messages your child is viewing. While this is the most time-consuming option, it's also the most recommended by parenting advocates.
Curating content your child can access on the device. You take the time to compile the kids videos and other media you think is most appropriate for your child beforehand so you know your child is viewing content that's appropriate and valuable. We offer parents this option in Jellies. Grownups decide what video content shows up in their child's media library, giving them the ultimate power over what their child watches.
How much interaction you have in your child's screen usage is up to you!
Teach Your Child to Care for the Device
This is a great opportunity to teach your child how to be responsible and take proper care of the (sometimes expensive!) technology. Set clear expectations for how you want your children to interact with the device. This may include showing them how to keep it clean, demonstrating how to act slowly and carefully to keep it from dropping and possibly cracking, and explaining how important it is to share the device with other family members. You can explain that proper care is essential when handling their belongings and other people's possessions. Also be sure to set expectations and consequences should the device be mishandled or damaged.
Resources for Creating Your Own Family Plan
There are several resources and templates available if you'd like to take the next step and draft out your family's screen plan. AAP and Common Sense Media offer forms that you can fill out with your child. These resources address the considerations mentioned above and go into more detail about...
- What's expected of your child if he or she sees inappropriate content or is contacted by a stranger.
- The guidelines your child should follow when using screens outside the family home, like at school or at a friend's house.
- Rules to stick to regarding social media sharing and interacting with others online.