Stop the screen-time fight with your kids

By Lauren Kollauf on Monday, November 12, 2018

Try these tips to manage your family's screen time

If you're a parent, you are familiar with the fight that comes along with telling your kid that their time on the iPad is up — the "just five more minutes" turns into 20 and soon you're in an all-out war before dinner is even on the table.

"It is very challenging," acknowledges Dr. Jill Alexander, a practicing physician at McFarland Clinic in Ames, and a mom to teenagers. "We're just sort of clueless of just how much time we all spend on our screens."


5-2-1-0 Healthy Choices Count! recommends that kids get less than two hours of recreational screen time each day. In children, too much screen media is associated with an increased prevalence of overweight and obesity, lower reading scores, and attention problems.

5-2-1-0 FEATURE: Challenge your family to less screen-time this month

Two hours or less is a difficult goal — not just for kids, but for adults, too. "We all need limits," recommends Dr. Alexander. "Our devices are so addictive."

If you're struggling to manage your family's screen time, try these suggestions from Dr. Alexander:

Create a media plan

The American Academy of Pediatrics has an online tool that allows users to create a customized media plan for their family. Dr. Alexander recommends setting screen-time limits when children are young, rather than trying to create new expectations as kids get older.

Set limits for the whole family

Set screen-free times and zones that all members of the family (including parents) must follow. Declare areas like the dining room or bedrooms screen-free. Set a time, such as 4:30 p.m.-6 p.m., when dinner is being prepared and eaten, as screen-free time for the whole family.

CONTRACT: Sample summer screen-time "contract" for kids

There's an app for that


Installing Circle device was the "hands down best thing I’ve ever done," says Dr. Alexander. 

Circle works with your home Wi-Fi and allows families to set limits on individual devices — like the Xbox, iPad or phone. When time is up, Internet connectivity to the device is cut off.

"If it turns off and you’re not managing it, they can’t get mad at you," said Dr. Alexander. "It takes the battle out for everyone."

There are other similar apps and devices like Circle, such as Screen Time, FamilyTime, and more. The latest iOS update includes a screen-time management feature for your personal Apple devices.   

More resources:


logoHealthy Choices Count! is a health-focused movement for kids that’s under the nationally recognized program, 5-2-1-0. This proven, scientific method helps keep kids healthy by focusing on the importance of good habits. And it all starts by encouraging them to eat and play the right way. Learn more.