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How to Limit My Child's Media Usage

Updated on February 20, 2014
Tracy Lynn Conway profile image

Tracy has been working in the field of education for many years specializing in both Waldorf and Montessori methodology.

iPods, video games and other electronic media offer amazing possibilities but limiting their use becomes a necessary challenge for parents today.
iPods, video games and other electronic media offer amazing possibilities but limiting their use becomes a necessary challenge for parents today. | Source

We all know that the volume of media usage among children today is not only unprecedented, but is often unhealthy. Study after study reveals the same results; children need to spend less time plugged in to things like TV, video games, smart phones, computers and other devices. The long list of negative effects due to large amount of screen time include: lack of physical fitness, obesity, media induced ADD, desensitization, and poor social skills among other troubling effects. There is no question that children need less screen time and more real world experience in order to grow up to develop into healthy, well adjusted adults.

Even though parents may be well aware that a high volume of screen time is a problem, the dilemma for parents is “How to limit media usage?” it is certainly easier said than done. In the last 30 years the volume of media activities available to children has continued to increase, presenting modern parents with the need to set limits like never before. In the seventies parents only needed to limit television, then it became video games and now it is TV, video games, computer usage, small device usage such as the I-touch as well as 'smart' phone use (with more devices certainly being developed as we speak). With each new device the possibility of a child experiencing the real world as opposed to the screen world, diminishes and the need for parents to set limits increases.

Media Limiting Solutions

Each parent seems to come up with a method that they feel works for their family. Following are some methods that parents can use to limit their child’s media consumption:

1. No media during weekdays

Many parents adhere to this rule and what is best is its simplicity which makes it easy to follow and offers the child a predictable consistency.

2. Earn your time through physical activity

With this method a child will earn his/her allotted time through physical activity. For instance 30 minutes of bike riding equals 30 minutes of media time.

3. After Homework

Once the homework is done children can watch TV or have media time either for a set amount of time or until bedtime.

4. Daily allotment

Using this method, a certain amount of time each day such as 30 minutes or 1 hour per day or every other day.

5. Personal Schedules

Parents can assist their child in making a schedule for media usage during the day by setting the time and requiring that other activities take place before they can have their media time.

6. Loan out method

Have devices on a “loan out” method where they have to be returned at a certain time. This can work for hand held video games, video game controllers, 'itouch' and other similar portable devices.

7. Media Journal

Keep a media journal where you or your child keep track of usage. This helps to keep track of how much time is actually being spent on media.

Keeping kids active with so many media distractions is a challenge for parents today.
Keeping kids active with so many media distractions is a challenge for parents today. | Source

Family Media Categories

With so many media options available to children, each family needs to navigate and find their own set of rules, with no two families being exactly alike, though there do seem to be some categories which families fit into in terms of media rules.

No media!

There are a group of educators and psychologist that recommend avoiding media altogether, which means any kind of screens for children and especially young children. Some schools, such as Waldorf Schools, apply a great amount of pressure on adhering to these rules while Montessori educators agree but on average don’t enforce it.

Free Reign

On the far side of the spectrum there are families that set no limits and allow their children free media rein.

Media Limits - Lip Service

Families that say they set limits but really don’t. This may be because they want to sound “politically correct” but really don’t have a method set in place to regularly limit usage.


Somewhere in the middle lie the majority of parents who set rules, which may include no weekday media or allow 30 minutes after their homework is completed.

The journey through a healthy childhood must involve media limits.
The journey through a healthy childhood must involve media limits. | Source

The modern day experience of raising kids in an ever expanding media explosion is unprecedented. Parents are left having to navigate a road never before traveled; the trail is still being blazed. With this tenuous situation modern parents are trying to keep up, trying to do what is right, trying to make sense of it all, and this is not an easy feat. The family media rules need to be reconsidered and revisited continually to be sure that a reasonable balance has been struck and that children have the opportunity to explore the world beyond the screen in front of them.

© 2014 Tracy Lynn Conway


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    • indanila profile image

      Inda Blackwell 

      4 years ago from Hampton Roads

      Great hub! I am currently considering going the "no media throughout the week" route. I usually allow the kids media after homework, but I still feel like it's a bit excessive. Thanks for the ideas! Family meeting time...

    • Tracy Lynn Conway profile imageAUTHOR

      Tracy Lynn Conway 

      5 years ago from Virginia, USA

      Hi Suzzane, while watching the Sochi Olympics, I have been telling my children how active Australians are, so I will be sure not to let them read your comment about the possibility of an all day TV camp out.

      All kidding aside, the "earned TV time" idea is a great one because it easy to follow, doesn't require a schedule or chart (only a clock) and it works on a daily basis, each day provides a fresh start.

      Thank you for your great comment!

      Best, Tracy

    • Tracy Lynn Conway profile imageAUTHOR

      Tracy Lynn Conway 

      5 years ago from Virginia, USA

      FlourishAnyway, when it comes to media limits, it is certainly not a one size fits all situation. Things changed a lot with my children when iPods were introduced and this was primarily because the device is so mobile, it is far easier to set limits with a desktop computer that can't move. Each family will inherently have a different set of challenges which will likely change over time.

      Best, Tracy

    • Tracy Lynn Conway profile imageAUTHOR

      Tracy Lynn Conway 

      5 years ago from Virginia, USA

      Eric, it sounds like you have been able to strike a balance for you son, that is great to hear! It is also good to hear that you are starting early, keep up the great work!

      The latest exercise recommendations for children are 1 hour a day. I feel sad when I think of my childhood and how I would play outside for most of the time, in those days parents didn't have to think about very much about media limits.

      Thank you for a great comment!

      Best, Tracy

    • Suzanne Day profile image

      Suzanne Day 

      5 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

      I like using the "earn the tv time" idea. Yes, my kids have to do their homework before tv is allowed. And some nights, I will just turn it off and tell them to find something else to do. After the initial complaints, they do manage quite nicely! I guess the biggest issue for me is not them having an hour or so of tv. It is when they settle in with the tv for half a day. That's the main habit I try hard to break. Voted useful!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      5 years ago from USA

      I like all the variations that you provide. Parents can find something here that works for their families.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      5 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      My four year old gets one Super Readers and one of his pick per night. We use media without commercials.

      But he clearly has no discipline yet on limitations. So I suppose this will help teach that.

      He goes to preschool so he is also required to have 1 hr of alone play time per day. But music lessons are limited to 4 Xs 15 minute sessions per week. Outside play time also a requirement daily. Normally he does not ask to watch media because he is too busy with other stuff.

      Great article.


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