Should I set strict screen time limits for my children?

When it comes to the things we do as a family we try to get a sense of balance for the children.

We like to go out and let them burn off some energy outside.  So we go and build sandcastles on the beach, we walk in the woods and we head to the park for a run around and a play.

Other times though we stay at home.  We do craft activities and we bake together.  We play board games and read books.

We also allow a fair bit of screen time.

children playing on tablet

The tv is on quite a lot in our house.  I like to have it on as background noise if I’m honest, and the children like to have CBeebies or Nick Junior on while they play together.

The children have access to my tablet and to a laptop, and while they always ask before they use them, we’re generally quite quick to say yes to them.

I know some people have really strict rules in place around screen time, but we’ve generally taken a more laid back approach.

I don’t really keep track of how long they’re on the various devices for.  Although we do have a general rule that once we head upstairs for bath and bed time all electronics get left downstairs.  So they do have some wind down time each evening away from the stimulation of the games and videos and from the light of the screens too, which has been found to interfere with sleep patterns.

Sleep is so important, especially for children, and I really don’t want to do anything that will potentially mess with that.

The blue light that’s emitted from the screens of things like smart phones and tablets can reduce the amount of melatonin that our bodies produce, which makes it harder to fall asleep.  This then makes us feel more tired the next day, making it harder for us to learn and remember things and potentially even leading to feelings of depression.

So I feel that having a cut-off point in the evenings for my children and their electronic devices is a rule worth having. 

I do feel a bit hypocritical though, as I get into bed most nights and scroll through social media on my phone.  Or watch Netflix on the ipad.  Or even finish up a bit of work on my laptop.  All things that give me a good dose of blue light when I really don’t want/need it.

Like most bloggers I do a lot of my work in the evenings and at night, so something like a blue light filter for laptops would be great to give me a bit of peace of mind that I’m doing what I can to protect my eyes, and my sleep, from the harmful effects of too much screen time.

For now I’ll stick with our rule of not really having screen time in that last hour before bed.  But I think that really is the only rule we stick to when it comes to the children using ipads and things.  I tend to think that if you really restrict anything then it makes people want it more.  I know that if I tried to give up eating chocolate it would be the only thing I would think about all day long!

We also aim for a balance in our family between us as parents making decisions and being in charge, and letting the children lead the way and learn to regulate their own behaviours.

One of the things that really appealed to me about baby led weaning was that it had been shown to help babies learn to regulate their own appetites, and to stop eating when they were full, rather than when the jar of baby food was empty.

It’s the same with screen time for me.

I want the children to learn for themselves about a healthy balance between playing computer games and watching videos and enjoying a variety of non-screen related activities.

We’ve been really pleased to see that Rhys has pretty much managed to do this.  There have been times in the past year where he has spent a lot of his day in front of a screen, playing Minecraft and watching videos to learn how to do more things in Minecraft.

Now though, he seems to have naturally found a balance.  He’ll play for a while, then completely of his own accord he’ll stop.  He’ll put down the ipad and come and play snakes and ladders with me and Nerys, because he wants to, not because I’ve told him he should.

So that’s why we don’t really have strict screen time limits in our house.  And for now at least that approach seems to be working for us.

Do you take a more laid back approach like us, or do you really limit screen time in your house?


Disclaimer – this is a collaborative post.





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