How Much Media Time Do You Allow Your Kids?

Media time. It was a topic that came up while several of us were visiting at the Colorado Springs Meet & Greet. I loved the discussion as it helped me figure out what would work well for our kids this summer!


My boys are just like many kids: if given the freedom, they would get on the computer to play games – and never get off…ever. (I’ve never been able to figure out how they don’t at least need to get up and pee??! That’s an amazing distraction, the computer.)

We have to set guidelines for our kids – with the main goal of helping our kids set restrictions for themselves when it comes to media time. After all, it’s one thing for Mom to holler “time’s up!” when someone is on the computer at home, but once they get off on their own, what will they do when Mom isn’t there to help manage their time? Oh, so much training we must do as a parent… :)

Media Time for the Kids

Our kids get plenty of “screen time” during the school year as they do their math, spanish, and a variety of writing or typing projects on the computer each day. In addition, our boys love to create music and movies (Cake Boys, anyone?), so they use computers often as they write scripts, edit footage, and come up with songs on the special software we got them for this purpose. We love how the computer gives us so many options and so many educational opportunities! But after all of that, what about Netflix, computer games, and all the other fun to be had on the computer?

This is subject to change, but for now, each of our boys is given 45 minutes each day for “computer time” to be used however they like. Obviously, we are very aware of what they are playing or watching on the computer at all times and the computers are out in the open so that we can keep the boys safe.

As for this summer, we’ve told the boys, “No screen time (not even for creating music or movies) until 3:00 in the afternoon.”  That way, they get up and start getting creative, play something active, jump on the trampoline, read, do chores, get together with friends – all sorts of activities! without getting sucked into the computer or TV screen at the beginning of the day. Often, 3:00 rolls around and they are too busy to notice.

Once their time is up, it is up, and it’s back to other activities. So far, this plan is working well for us.

I know each family has different ideas to make this work, and I’d love to hear them. I think it is so helpful to get ideas from all of you for what works for your kids and family’s situation.  What guidelines have you set for your kids when it comes to media? Do you have limits on computer/TV time? What works for you!?


  1. Laura says

    A friend of a friend has her boys stand up when they are playing on the computer, video games, etc… She said she found that they naturally limit themselves to a shorter amount of time when they are not lounging around. They get antsy standing in one spot and go on to some other activity.


    Melisa Reply:

    I think this is a great idea! I’ll be implementing this as well.


  2. Julie says

    Raising 4 boys here too……we referee screen time very similar with 45min to an hour, always in late afternoon. My biggest dilemma has been deciding when to do ‘group’ screen time vs individual. When each boy is allowed 45min…that really adds up and requires a large chunk of overall time. And then what about when one boy is on computer and all other boys watching him, or a boy on iPad and boys watching over his shoulder. Does that count toward their minutes? It gets so confusing….I just want to pull all cords and avoid the conflict. I know, not the wise choice.


  3. says

    My son is only seventeen months old, but since I’ve heard of people plopping their toddlers in front of the TV, I thought I’d share what we’re doing at this age. :-)

    As a trained school teacher, I am a very big believer that — no matter how realistic — screen time cannot duplicate the learning experiences that happen when kiddos interact with real objects and people. So, at this age, the only time my son gets to watch something is when we brush his teeth (playing a Disney music video seems to be the only way to get him to hold still long enough for us to adequately brush his teeth!). Other than that, the screens are off the rest of the day. We don’t even do “background noise.”

    When our son gets older we plan on doing something similar as your family: limited screen time with computers out in the open.


  4. Courtney says

    I have a 5, 4, and 2 year old and am due in 8 weeks with the next baby. We typically say no tv except for Fridays ans Saturdays for about 1-2 hours. But that rule has slacked some recently so mama gets more of a break. However they never get more than an hour at a time.


  5. Abbie says

    Read so much lately about how screen time in the evenings can disrupt sleep & hormones, when your body is naturally trying to prepare for dark, so we rarely allow screens after 4 or 5 pm, and I’m working on that too :) It’s just so much easier to get emailing done after kids are in bed! :)


  6. Joanna Sigman says

    Had to laugh. We have the EXACT same plan set up for our kids. Great minds……and all that. :)


  7. Shelly Smith says

    To encourage our boys to read (not a favorite for any of them, yet!) we also give “bonus” screen time… like for 20 or 30 min spent reading quietly, they can “earn” equal minutes in bonus screen time. Seems to motivate them for now…


  8. Terri-Ann Gawthroupe says

    Our boys are young (3, 5 and 7) but we do media time only on Saturdays and holidays, which will also include summer vacation. We do it first thing in the morning, because the kids wake up by 6am (which is hard for parents up all night with our baby). They may play until breakfast time, and then it goes off, which is usually about an hour.


  9. Erin says

    So do you let them watch during the other kids’ screen time? That would be 3 hours total if they all watched each other.


  10. says

    My older kids monitor their time fairly well. But my youngest would be on all day if we let him. So he gets one hour a day. I break it down…30 minutes mid-morning and 30 minutes mid afternoon. However, rule infractions result in loss of minutes too. :)


  11. Tricia says

    We are trying something new this summer with our older boys who are 10 and 8. For every 30 minutes of reading they earn an equal amount of video game time (computer, xbox, DS, etc.). However, this is also the first privilege lost when consequences are necessary.


  12. Anitra says

    I aim for an hour or less per day (for each kid). A few times a week, that goes up to 2 hours – usually if we are doing “family movie night” or mommy has a lot of work to do ;)


  13. Crystal says

    Our kids are 5, 7 and 9. Our new summer rule is read 1 hour in morning, then you can have 30 minutes of computer time. We do all our other things: chores, play outside, park, etc. Then late afternoon we read 1 hour again and earn 30 more minutes of computer (so mom can get dinner going! :). Friday nights are family movie night, so they do get some extra. Also, absolutely no watching anyone else on the computer or it subtracts from your time!


  14. Beth S. says

    So interesting to read whatever one does. I aim for an hour and half each per day for all screen time: DS, Computer, TV, movie etc. 30 min of tv in the am and then in the afternoon they can watch a short movie together or choose other screen time. So far so good. It still seems like quite a bit but we are also reading a lot and getting outside so I think I’m okay with it. My kids are 4 & 7. Oh and they usually do their screen time at the same time. So far it’s not been an issue.


  15. Lisa says

    Wow, from reading the comments, our family (2 teenagers) is really different than those who have shared what works for them. We have safeguards on all our computers at home as in the internet is only available from 6:00am to 10:00pm and we have a filtering system installed that won’t allow questionable sites to be visited. Other than that, we allow our kids on their computers, i-touches, tablets etc at whatever times they want . . . as long as they’re getting their chores and school work done when they’re supposed to and it doesn’t interfere with interacting face-to-face with family and friends. We are a family who isn’t on facebook or other social medias, but they have the freedom to play games, use the internet without time restrictions etc. We’ve found this to be a valuable way to teach them time management and self control. We’re giving them boundaries, but they can decide for themselves within those boundaries. They grow up so quickly and will be adults before we know it, so we are teaching them these life skills while in the safely of our home with the goal of them being independent adults one day who make wise choices. I think it’s great that we all approach these topics differently and hopefully we’ll all be able grow and learn from one another!


    Anitra Reply:

    We will probably adopt a similar system to yours when our kids are teenagers. My husband and I both love video games and we both have degrees in computer science… we want our kids to be able to have freedom with “screen time” – but right now, our kids are 4 and 2, and it’s important that they spend time reading, playing outside, etc. and if I let them watch TV/play on the computer as long as they wanted, those other things wouldn’t happen. We act as an outward control until they can learn self-control. :)


  16. Pam says

    In the past, we have used a ticket system where 15 min of reading earns a ticket good for 15 min of screen time during the summer. During the school year, screens aren’t allowed until homework & chores are done. They are often busy enough that there isn’t much time except weekends. No computers in the bedroom and iPods are downstairs after bedtime.


  17. Birdie says

    30 minutes, for agreed to games with a little extra time to finish if in the middle of a turn. Computer in main area. Selected DVD’s. Mostly outdoor play. Tons of reading. Security blocks on at all time.


  18. Lara says

    Lisa, I think the age of your kids has a bearing. As kids get older, if they are still getting a LOT of facetime with family, I think they do need to manage their own time (with wise guidance, of course :). But when our children are younger, us regulating their time is wise. Ours are getting to the age now (13/11) when they go thru spurts when they spend more time on the pc, but now it’s more likely to be productive: research on nutrition, various bugs and critters, and such things, designing postcards, working with photographs they’ve taken, journaling, writing articles, etc. Anyway, it’s definitely wise to make sure our children are learning and growing! :)


  19. Laura A says

    Each of my three oldest kids get their own designated computer time. If someone chooses to watch the other play, they forfeit their own computer time. I also ask they spend half their computer time on some kind of learning games. We have a dollar store timer at the computer and when it beeps they know it’s time to turn it off. As for tv, we have “tickets” available each week and they have limits as to what they can use in their pocket each week. We allow two requests for movies and a few tv show and video game opportunities. I typically don’t allow more than one ticket per day, and they tend to spend both movie tickets by Tuesday. With 5 kids, if I allowed everyone to choose a movie each week we’d watch a ton of tv!


  20. Pam says

    We have lots of screen time, but we make sure it is age appropriate and We are more lenient with the 9 year old daughter than with our 3 year old and 6 year old sons. I think a lot of it just depends on the kiddo and their personality. None of my kids are ever “glued” to the TV. My daughter has a DS, but we limit time on it and her chores must be dome first. Anything on the computer must be educational, and again, chores must be done first. All internet access is monitored and they must ask permission to visit sites (usually PBS kids, Lego, Nick Jr., Minecraft, and some teacher recommended learning sites like Reading Eggs). We do lots of family time on the Wii and play games together (all our Wii games are non-violent and small kid-friendly). Computer and Wii time are a privledge and are taken away for bad behavior. Our school district is very technologically savvy and ahead of the curve, so my kids have been exposed to Smart Boards, computers, and electronic learning enrichment since preschool. All school communication is by email, website, or text. I rely on the computer for work and grad school, so my kids see me “working” on the computer regularly. Yes, we have quite a bit of screen time, but my kids also play outside almost everyday for at least 1-2 hours. My boys do a lot of imaginary play and my daughter reads a lot (she can read a Harry Potter book in 2 weeks or less). They play soccer and baseball and are in scouts. They are by no means couch potatoes or video game addicts. Admittedly I was guilty of plopping baby in the bouncy seat in front of a Baby Einstein video so I could take a quick shower, get a sink full of dishes washed, or do some vacuuming. That 30-60 minutes a day did no harm and mom’s sanity was saved. I think appropriate and parent monitored screen time is a wonderful thing and can enrich our children’s lives in so many ways!


  21. Steph says

    Ah, thanks so much for sharing this! That is an EXCELLENT idea about 3pm!!! I find that if my littles watch tv in the morning they just don’t know what to do with themselves afterward- it’s like it sets the momentum for the day. It takes awhile for them to switch gears and they are very grumpy about it. But, after 3pm, they are often tired and need a break from activity and each other:) And you are so right that on the days they don’t need a break they may happily play on, forgetting they have the option of seeing a video. Your post was an answered prayer as I discerned stopping all morning videos. Thank you!!!

    Out of curiosity, does that 45 minutes include Netflix/TV show/Movie time?



  22. Kathy says

    We allow our younger children 30 min. a day. We changed things just a bit recently, in that we now give them a 15 min. ticket when their chores are done for the day, and another ticket when their school work is done. It has helped them to take more responsibility to keep at their tasks. In addition, we told them that we would give them $0.25 for each unused ticket, to put toward camp (they pay for half of camp themselves). This has given them some incentive to choose between an immediate pleasure, and a benefit for the future.

    We keep our computer in a central location with filtering safeguards, and it is set so that the kids can only log in between 7 am and 11 pm. With those parameters, the older kids (teenage) are allowed to use it as much as they like as long as school and chores are getting done. We have six kids at home, with only one computer, that naturally limits their time as they have to take turns.


    Kathy Reply:

    And we, too, struggle with that question about what to do with all the time that each child spends watching everyone else play their games


  23. Crystal says

    We do 30 min. of computer time, for each of the three kids. During Summer, I may let them do 30 min. in am and 30 min. in pm. TV time is only on weekend evenings during school, and Summer is more TV, but only in evenings. My 11 yr. old is moving away from computer time, b/c there is not much free fun sites for her. So, if anyone knows of something decent for her. Let me know!


  24. Anna Rose says

    We have a ~2y/o boy and a ~4y/o girl. We do not have TV (I honestly don’t know when we’d ever have time to watch it!) and they are not allowed on the computer (yet) except to start/stop music and Bible Stories. We’ll have some decisions to make in the future I’m sure tho since our girl has already figured out how to run the mouse just from watching us! Homeschooling down the road will add another dimension too.

    What we have to monitor in our house is the parent’s screen time- obviously not TV, but just emailing, researching, shopping online. My kids play fairly good with one another, but they will definitely be on my lap in no time if I am doing anything on the computer with a video or lots of pictures. My husband and I discuss this topic a lot, because it is so easy to eat up gobs of time, and our desire is to “redeem our time” and be more up and doing and not wasting time, even thought it seems like there are so many needful things to do online. I guess our self-control and habits in this area serve as an example for the kids!


  25. Mette says

    We don’t have any limits at all on screen time, infact we don’t even use the word “screen time” – computers, nintendos, whatever are just another activity among dozens that happen in a day. There’s no permission to ask, everyone in the household just gets on a computer or other whenever he/she feels like it.

    None of our children are “glued” to a screen all the time, they use them a lot, but also do lots of other things; reading, playing, cooking, sports…

    As far as I can see from our experience up until now (oldest is 13) kids are plenty capable of balancing their lives and don’t become screen veggies when not restricted – quite the contrary infact :)


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