How to Set Healthy Limits for Screen Time

How to Set Healthy Limits for Screen Time

In the rapidly advancing digital age, parents grapple with the challenge of managing screen time for their children. As screens become an integral part of daily life, finding a balance is crucial for the well-being of young minds. This blog aims to guide parents through the intricacies of setting healthy limits for less screen time by offering practical tips and a framework for making decisions regarding screen time.  

The Impact of Excessive Screen Time 

On average, children ages 8-12 spend 4-6 hours a day watching or using screens while teens spend up to 9 hours.* While screens are a necessary part of daily living, they can have a negative impact if not monitored and used with intention. Screen time, especially unsupervised, can expose children to a variety of developmentally inappropriate media such as explicit or violent content, risk-taking behaviors, advertisements, and communication with unsafe individuals. Exposure to this content can be distressing and confusing for children, and they may not know how to talk about it with an adult. Too much screen time can also impact mental and physical wellness such as academic performance, creativity, self-esteem, socialization time, sleep, and physical activity. Less screen time may be a consideration for children or individuals who are struggling in other areas of life. It’s helpful to assess the amount of time spent engaging with screens throughout the day and if there is room for a reduction in usage. 

Guidelines For Screen Time

It is difficult for parents to navigate all the information and opinions about the appropriate amount of screen time for children. When determining guidelines for screen time, it’s helpful to factor in the amount of time screens are being used and the content that is being consumed.

Below are guidelines from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry:

  • 0-18 months- no screen time unless it’s a video chat (for example if a relative or caregiver is out of town)

  • 18-24 months - limited screen time of highly educational content with a caregiver present

  • 2-5 years - one hour on weekdays and up to three hours on weekend days

  • 6 and up - no set time limit but the encouragement of healthy habits and limited access to screen activities. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics does not have established time limits for screen time but instead advises that parents establish rules around screen time based on content, co-viewing, and communication which research has shown, has positive outcomes. The quality of the content that is being consumed is a significant factor when determining healthy levels of screen usage. 

Some other factors when considering the impact of screen time are:

  • Is my child eating a balanced diet and getting good sleep?

  • Do they engage in daily physical activity?

  • Do they have strong connections with peers and family?

  • How are they performing at school?

  • Do they engage in a hobby or extracurricular that is enjoyable?

  • Do they spend time with friends?

The answers to these questions can help identify if there may be room to grow around establishing limits with screen time and can help parents decide what appropriate screen usage looks like.  


How to Choose Appropriate Content

Common Sense Media suggests using the 4 C’s when choosing content for children. 

  • Connection

    • It’s important that children feel a personal connection to the content they’re engaging in. Are they able to identify and connect parts of their lives to what they see? 

  • Critical Thinking

    • Content that focuses on building critical thinking and problem-solving skills can help develop skills that are important for academic and personal growth.

  • Creativity

    • Screen time that allows children an opportunity to flex their creative muscles can be a positive form of expression and aid in identity development.

  • Context

    • For younger children especially, it is important to help provide context to the content they are consuming. Asking questions and helping them make sense of what they are watching helps build up evaluative skills and provides a deeper level of understanding. 

Being informed about the content children engage with mitigates many of the risks associated with screen time. Frequently checking in and guiding what children are viewing allows parents to help shape children’s experiences and open lines of communication. 

Setting Healthy Limits on Screen Time and Its Benefits

Establishing mindful boundaries for screen time is a crucial aspect of nurturing children's well-being in the digital age, ensuring a balanced and healthy approach to technology use while fostering meaningful connections in the real world. Below are some ways to structure less screen time for children. 

  • Set good examples

    • Children learn when they see skills in action. When parents model the behavior they want to see, they are reinforcing that same behavior in children

  • Limit access to screens in the bedroom

    • Keeping screens out of the bedroom can reduce screen usage and ensure that screen time is supervised and in the presence of an adult

  • Open communication

    • Talk to children about safe internet habits and promote healthy communication about what content children are engaging with 

  • Offer alternative activities 

    • It can be extremely helpful to identify different activities that children can do instead of spending time on screens. 

  • Utilize timer apps

    • Teaching children to monitor their screen usage and being consistent about routines can involve children in the process of setting limits around screen time.  

Navigating Behavioral Challenges

Lessening screen time may be a challenge for families. Keeping firm but loving limits can teach children to adapt to new expectations. Being consistent is one of the best parenting techniques to utilize when implementing new household rules. Allowing children to be a part of the process can also increase buy-in and feelings of empowerment. Engaging in discussion about why limits are being set, the feelings associated with those limits, and asking children to come up with possible solutions can leave everyone feeling involved in the process.

When to Seek Professional Help

Knowing when to seek professional help regarding screen usage is crucial for maintaining a healthy and balanced digital lifestyle. Suppose individuals or parents observe persistent patterns of excessive screen time leading to negative impacts on physical health, mental well-being, or overall daily functioning. In that case, it may be time to consult with a professional. Signs such as disrupted sleep, deteriorating academic performance, withdrawal from social activities, or heightened irritability may indicate the need for intervention. Additionally, if attempts to set limits on screen use prove challenging or if there are concerns about the role screens play in an individual's life, seeking guidance from a counselor can provide valuable insights and strategies for establishing healthier screen habits. Professional support can empower individuals and families to navigate the complexities of screen usage, fostering a balanced and mindful approach in the digital age.


Acknowledging and addressing the challenges associated with excessive screen time is a crucial step toward fostering a healthier and more balanced lifestyle for both individuals and families. When confronted with the complexities of managing screen time and its potential impact on well-being, seeking professional support may be helpful. Don’t hesitate to reach out to Heritage Counseling & Consulting at 214-363-2345 for additional support from our team of counselors and psychologists.