How to Create Your Family Screen Plan

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.

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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.

Check them out at Com​mon​Sense​Me​dia​.org and Healthy​Chil​dren​.org.

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