Managing screen time: How intentional parenting can help your child

Like any parent, I’ve found myself concerned about the hours my child logs on his devices and the intriguing mix of content he encounters – yes, some of those YouTubers have definitely made me raise an eyebrow!

None of us grew up with access to screens on the scale we know now (I played with an Atari once in a blue moon at my friend’s house), so we don’t have much of a frame of reference to go by.

There’s new information coming out all the time, but none of us are sure if it’s science or scare mongering.

Some experts say that we are robbing our children of the chance to be bored, which is stunting their imagination, while others say that screen use is no different from reading a book.

Here’s what I think…

Intentional Parenting for the win

Intentional parenting isn’t just a buzzword – it’s a deliberate approach to raising children that emphasises thoughtful decision-making rather than impulsive reactions.

This approach can be particularly effective when managing your child’s screen time.

By being intentional, you can help your child develop a healthy, balanced relationship with technology.

7 strategies for managing your child's screen time

Here are seven actionable strategies to help you parent the intentional way with regard to your child’s screen use:

1. Model healthy behaviour:

Children have played at being adults and used the tools of their culture since tribal times. In our modern world, the tools are screens and electronic devices, and all children are doing is copying us. 

I find myself spending a lot of time on my devices, phone or computer, so I try to make a conscious effort to limit my screen use around my teen. 

It’s all about setting a good example, showing not just telling that we can all benefit from a little less screen time.

2. Evaluate content quality:

Not all screen time is created equal. You’d be surprised how learning can happen and from what source.

I’ve watched my child absorb new words from story time videos and develop some serious strategy skills from interactive games. He has the vocabulary of a much older person, and his hand-eye coordination is second to none!

Lots about the digital world sparks creativity and learning.

3. Engage, don't isolate:

Turning screen time into a shared adventure can really change the game.

I love curling up with my son to watch episodes of his favourite animated series or challenging him to a friendly game on the console. It’s a great way to see what he’s into, and it opens up so many avenues for conversation.

Plus, it shows him that I value his interests – digital and otherwise.

4. Respect their space:

I saw a great analogy the other day about a dancer. If you interrupted them in the middle of their routine, they’d be annoyed, right?

Think about how annoyed you’d be if someone paused your favourite film right at the climax? Kids feel the same!

I give my son a heads-up before it’s time to shut down, respecting his space and the importance of finishing what he started. If it’s a long one, and we don’t have time, we make a plan for more screen time later on.

It’s about mutual respect, even in the digital realm.

5. Understand the science:

Staying updated on the latest research about screen time helps me make smarter choices for our family.

Yes, the blue light from screens can disrupt sleep. So, tweaking device settings to reduce blue light at night is a small change with big benefits.

And, understanding that some kids, like my son who relaxes to the sound of virtual raindrops, might need a different approach is key.

Some children will need to get off their screens an hour or more before they go to bed, while others, for example, children with ADHD, may find it difficult to sleep without some stimulation at bedtime.

There is recent information suggesting that our children’s attention span is particularly affected by short-form content such as TikTok, YouTube Shorts, etc. So, watching a 15-minute video won’t have the same effect as the much shorter clips. [Learn more]

The key is to focus on customising your approach based on the best available science, not just hearsay or scare tactics.

6. Diversify entertainment:

Instead of making screens a treat, make other activities the treat. 

Instead of limiting screen time, why not make everything else just as tempting? We’ve started having regular “date nights,” where screens are swapped for board games or a mini hike.

It’s about making screen-free time just as exciting, if not more!

7. The more you say No, the more your child wants a Yes:

Part of growing up is to assert yourself as your own person. This is partly why your child will challenge you so much.

Teaching kids to manage their own screen time is empowering. If I want my son to learn to make good decisions and regulate himself, including his use of screens, then I need to let him make decisions in the first place. I sit down together and decide on screen limits, making sure he’s part of the conversation.

I’m not setting rules, I’m guiding him to understand the value of some decisions over others. We check in regularly to tweak our plan, which helps him feel involved and respected – and honestly, it makes sticking to healthy habits a lot easier.

Intentional parenting doesn’t mean having all the answers, but being present, thoughtful, and open to learning alongside your child. By embracing this approach, you can guide your child to use screens in a way that enriches their lives rather than detracts from it.

Ready to transform your parenting approach?

Dive deeper into intentional parenting with my exclusive free guide, “The 5 pillars of Intentional Parenting: Practical ways to create a peaceful family life”. Packed with actionable insights and strategies, this resource will help you create a more thoughtful, balanced approach to parenting in the digital age.

Click below to download your free guide now and start building a stronger, more connected family life today!

What challenges have you faced with managing screen time in your home?

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