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Beyond Screen Time Limits

Get insights, tips and ideas straight from clinical psychologist, Dr. Demi Rhine

My #1 Rule for Screen Time

Sep 28, 2020

In my last blog, I discussed the first step in managing screen time for tweens during remote learning: the setup of a screen time block schedule. This kind of schedule allows your child to enjoy entertainment and social screen time, while not letting screen time take over their lives.  As they mature and practice, they can learn to maintain this balance on their own - and such a schedule will no longer be necessary.  

However, for most families, establishing a schedule is not enough to manage screen time.  Many kids won’t be motivated right away to follow this schedule - especially if they’re used to having more screen time.  So - how do we motivate tweens to get on board with balanced screen time?

Lay Down my #1 Rule For Screen Time

You only need ONE screen time rule to accomplish this task. My #1 Rule for Screen Time:  Kids can only have access to their screen when they are on board with using their screens in healthy ways. 

Think of it this way: Would you let your child learn to drive if they were not on board with learning how to do so safely? Of course not. Screens, like cars, pose safety risks when not operated wisely.  Kids should only be allowed to have screen time when they are on board with learning how to use screen time in a healthy and responsible way.  

Here’s how to explain this to your tween:

“In this house, you only get (non-academic) screen time when you are practicing using screens in healthy, balanced ways. When I see you doing this, I will trust you with (non-academic) screen time. Screen time is too potentially addictive and dangerous to let you have it if you aren’t on board with learning to use it wisely. So, if I don’t see the effort, you’ll have a screen time break (other than academics). Then you can try again when I see that you are ready to work on using devices in healthy ways.”

Explain What Healthy Screen Time Looks Like

OK, now your kid is listening! Your next job is to instill a vision of healthy versus unhealthy screen time. What does healthy, safe, balanced screen time look like, especially during a pandemic and remote learning? 

Healthy screen time means that your tween...

  1. Maintains focus on academics and avoids toggling over to other online activities in a way that interferes with learning (vs. disrupts learning by messaging, playing games, or other online activities)
  2. Unhooks at the end of screen time blocks (vs. becoming defiant, sneaking, or begging for more screen time)
  3. Docks devices and engages in other important life activities - chores, hobbies, physical exercise, homework, family time, play/unstructured boredom time (vs. only wanting screen time and being unwilling to engage in other activities)
  4. Engages in age-appropriate content online and respects any limit you have set (vs. seeking out content that is not developmentally appropriate)

Explain these benchmarks of healthy screen time to your tween and remember that anything less is unhealthy. Your take-home message to your tween: 

I want you to enjoy your screen time, stay connected to your friends during these isolating times, play games, relax with some videos, etc. I just want you to do it in healthy ways.”

Follow Through

Once your tween understands what you mean by ‘healthy screen time,’ and knows that they will only have screen time when they use screens in healthy ways, they are now motivated to get on board with your schedule and plan. Your tween will make mistakes - healthy screen time is not easy for any of us! Use those mistakes as learning opportunities, but stay consistent on your expectations that the schedule be followed daily, and that the benchmarks of healthy screen time be met. 

Despite your support, if ‘mistakes’ are more of a downright unwillingness to use screens in healthy ways-  be sure to follow through on my #1 Rule For Screen Time. Take their non-academic screen time away temporarily. Give it back when they are on board with learning healthy tech use. Remember, this rule is not in place to be mean or punish your child - it is there to keep them safe.  

Tune in for next week’s blog to learn how you can support your child so that they learn to hit those healthy screen time benchmarks., and then ultimately self-regulate their own screen time - without having you monitor!

Sign up for our newsletter to get healthy screen time insights and tips from clinical psychologist, Dr. Demi Rhine.  

About Beyond Limits Academy

Beyond Limits is a simple step-by-step online program that teaches parents how to prepare their children for a lifetime of safe and healthy technology use. Going beyond just screen time limits, our skills-based approach provides a clear roadmap that reduces conflict and sets children up to manage their own tech use independently and responsibly. In an increasingly digital world, preparing our children to use technology wisely is no longer an option . . . it's a necessity.


End the constant screen time battles.  Join the movement here.

Continue Reading...

5 Healthy Screen Time Tips for Pre-teens

Sep 16, 2020

“My kids’ screen use is out of control. They’re online for school and then play games in between class sessions. I just realized my 11-year-old has figured out how to chat with friends on some messaging program I didn’t even know his Chromebook had, and now he is messaging friends throughout the day. I feel bad taking this away since he can’t see his friends, but between messaging, games, and school, he’s on his screen all day. What do we do?”

-Lila W

Parents all over the country are asking this very question. How do we possibly keep screen time healthy for our pre-teens & teens now that their school and social lives occur online?  

There is an answer.  

This is the first of three blogs that will collectively give parents a roadmap for screen time with pre-teens during remote learning. Start here, and then read more over the next two weeks.  And P.S. - if you manage screen time this way, your child will be learning critical skills for self-regulation of screen time. It’s a win-win! 

Separate Entertainment/Social Screen Time from Academic Screen Time

All screen time is not created equal. It’s not the same to complete math assignments as it is to play Roblox with a group of friends. The first step is to separate academic screen time from social/entertainment screen time in your own mind. This step begins to clarify a path for you and your pre-teen - rather than being overwhelmed by the problem.  

Once you have separated screen time into these two categories, create a daily schedule with your child.  Keep these tips in mind:  

Tip #1: Create a consistent time for social/entertainment screen time.

Academic screen time is not movable, but have your pre-teen weigh-in on timing for social/entertainment screen time.  Encourage them to coordinate with friends.  Every family will be less stressed if screen time is coordinated among friends!  

Tip #2: Schedule their social/entertainment screen time at the end of the day.

I highly recommend that you keep one block of social/entertainment screen time for the end of the day. This gives your pre-teen something to look forward to, and incentive to complete other tasks such as homework, chores, screen-free activities, etc.  

Tip #3: Have non-screen time blocks of time scheduled in. 

Make screen-free blocks of time long enough for your pre-teen to truly engage in other activities. 

Here is a sample schedule from one Beyond Limits family with a 12 yo daughter:

7:30 - 8:30 - Get up, get ready, eat breakfast

8:30 - 2:30 - Academic Screen Time

2:30 - 4:30 - Screen-Free: hobbies, exercise, unstructured boredom/playtime

4:30 - 5:30 - Social/entertainment screen time

5:30 - 7:30 - Screen-Free: chores, dinner, homework

7:30 - 8:30 - Social/entertainment screen time

8:30 - 9:30 - Screen-Free: get ready for bed, reading, hang with parents

9:30 bedtime 

Tip #4: Stay close by. 

Have your pre-teen dock their devices near you for their screen-free time.  This way they will not struggle with the temptation to hop back on, and can better learn the art of unhooking.  When they gain competency, they can work up to keeping their devices during screen-free blocks of time.

Tip #5: Stick to the schedule.

Most pre-teens will want to message friends before school and also right before bed. It can be difficult for pre-teens to prepare for school or to wind down for bed if they have access to messaging friends. Hold off on letting them message friends at these transition times until they can maintain healthy routines without their phones.  Then let them try to add friend chats to these times of days when they are ready. 

For most families, this type of schedule will be a start, but not enough on its own.  Many pre-teens have had much freer access to screens over the last several months, so they may not exactly welcome this scheduling change. If this is your situation, stay tuned for next week’s blog where I will discuss how to get pre-teens on board with this type of screen time plan.

Sign up for our newsletter to get healthy screen time insights and tips from clinical psychologist, Dr. Demi Rhine.  

About Beyond Limits Academy

Beyond Limits is a simple step-by-step online program that teaches parents how to prepare their children for a lifetime of safe and healthy technology use. Going beyond just screen time limits, our skills-based approach provides a clear roadmap that reduces conflict and sets children up to manage their own tech use independently and responsibly. In an increasingly digital world, preparing our children to use technology wisely is no longer an option . . . it's a necessity.


End the constant screen time battles.  Join the movement here.

Continue Reading...

How to Help Your Child Deal With Emotions vs. Numbing With Screens

Sep 03, 2020

The return to school this year is unprecedented and may be bringing up strong emotions for your child. Before returning to school, many parents allowed extra screen time to help cope during SIP. But now, with all of the screen time devoted to remote learning, many families want to roll back that extra screen time to give children more balance.

As we rollback screen time during a time of intense emotions, we have to expect push back and distress. Screens often numb or mask our children’s emotions, so if we want to shift this, we have to be ready to help our children handle their emotions in a different and healthier way. We have to connect with our children, support them through intense feelings, and help them find words and solace for what they are experiencing in this time of upheaval.  

How do we do this?

Be Present - Even if Just for a Few Minutes 

Easier said than done! As parents, we are more distracted than ever as work, home and school all occur at the same time and place. Yet, if we want our children to cope without turning to screens for solace and constant distraction, we have to help them do so.  

The first step is to find moments to show up, put down our own phones, and be present with our children. It can happen in a quick check-in between calls, a special activity, or a deeper conversation when needed. Mostly, being present just entails leaving your computer in the other room, breathing deeply, and tuning into the little being across from you.

Here’s an example of what this may look like:

Your son gets off his afternoon zoom call and immediately yells at his little brother, then begs to play Roblox. You put down your to-do list, go sit with him and say, “What’s up? You seem upset.” 

Listen & Validate

The next step is listening to understand. This is not as easy as it sounds! As you hear what he says, try to ‘get in his world.’ Reflect back how he is feeling: frustrated, annoyed, angry, worried, sad. If you aren’t sure, ask him. Try to resist corrections, defensiveness, and problem-solving. Find the words that guess how he feels until he feels understood.

Here’s one way that may go:

Parent: “What’s up? You seem upset.”

Child: “I’m not upset! I’m annoyed! I’m on my call and my little brother comes into my room making noise. Can’t you keep him out of here? I hate doing schoolwork. Can I play Roblox now?!?”

Parent: “So frustrating! It's hard to be on calls with noise around! I get it. We never used to have this problem when we were at school.”

Child: “Yea! I hate doing work from home! It’s so dumb here. Can I play Roblox?” 

Parent: “Sure, you can play Roblox at 4:30, when you have your screen time. And by “dumb”, I think you mean it’s difficult to work from home and not be in school. You wouldn’t have to deal with your brother at school!”

Note that validating doesn’t mean bending boundaries or changing rules just because he is upset. Hold firm on no Roblox (we don’t want him going to screens to numb feelings). Hold firm on inappropriate language. These boundaries teach your child to deal with feelings appropriately. Help them find the language that accurately describes how they feel and why.    

Help Your Child Soothe in Non-Addictive Ways

If he is too upset to have this conversation right now, help him soothe and distract in non-screen time ways (see the list from my previous blog). These other ways allow a person to feel some emotion while engaging in activities that bring comfort and/or a mental ‘change of scenery.’  When they have soothed without screens, return to discussing the original problem and validating feelings. In this way, your child learns to soothe but not numb emotions. They learn to tolerate and express feelings. They learn that adults are safe sources of help and understanding.

Help Problem Solve

One of the most validating things you can do as a parent is to help your child solve the problems that upset them. After listening, engage your child in solving the problem together.  

“Most problems have solutions. How do you want to solve this one? What are some ideas we can come up with to keep your brother out of the room when you have your calls?”

When you solve the problem together, your child learns that seemingly overwhelming experiences can be solved. They learn that they don’t need to panic or numb - they can face the challenges life (and COVID) brings and cope effectively.  

Allow Appropriate Screen Time

Schedule a daily screen time so that your child can enjoy some entertainment and social time with friends. When they want to turn to their screen for emotional coping, help them in the ways just described, but remind them that they do get screen time at their normal time. This way they learn that screens are to be enjoyed in moments of calm but not used as a crutch to cope with hard times. (See upcoming blog for how to schedule daily screen time and ensure that it doesn’t interfere with healthy development.)
Remember, if you don’t want your child turning to screens to cope with feelings, you have to let them turn to you! This means staying connected and present for their feelings, especially those surrounding their upcoming school year. If you want more guidance on parenting from a place of connection, see Dr. Laura Markham’s work here.

Sign up for our newsletter to get healthy screen time insights and tips from clinical psychologist, Dr. Demi Rhine.  

About Beyond Limits Academy

Beyond Limits is a simple step-by-step online program that teaches parents how to prepare their children for a lifetime of safe and healthy technology use. Going beyond just screen time limits, our skills-based approach provides a clear roadmap that reduces conflict and sets children up to manage their own tech use independently and responsibly. In an increasingly digital world, preparing our children to use technology wisely is no longer an option . . . it's a necessity.


End the constant screen time battles.  Join the movement here.

Continue Reading...

How to Help Your Child Focus on Schoolwork vs. YouTube

Aug 25, 2020

“What?!? You are supposed to be doing math and you are watching cat videos on YouTube?”

Charged with attending school on a device filled with more entertaining activities, our children will have a very difficult time staying on task.  

When children toggle back and forth between schoolwork and other online activities, not only does it take them longer to finish assignments but research indicates that media multitasking is linked to lower levels of short and long-term memory, especially on tasks that require sustained, goal-directed attention (schoolwork).  This behavior needs to be addressed to ensure our children can learn effectively this fall.

How do we handle this scenario when we can’t take away their device?  How can we ensure they get their education when the online world is so enticing?  Here is what to do:

Blame the device, not your child

Though completely understandable, when we get angry at them for being on YouTube children feel judged and wonder what is wrong with them that they cannot stay on task online. This will disconnect you from your child and also further decrease their ability to focus on schoolwork.  Not the direction we want to go.

To find a new strategy, let’s take a look at the root of this problem. The fact is that most of us struggle with distractibility while working online. Platforms and Apps are designed intentionally to hook our attention, and these designs work on all of us, including our children. In other words, the design of the device is the problem - not the child. Our children toggle to YouTube not because they are inept or irresponsible, but because the developers are really good at what they do.

Rather than reacting with anger, take a breath, and remember to blame the device, not the child.  Say:

You are on YouTube rather than math! Oh, dear! It is so hard. YouTube is designed to grab your attention. So hard to resist those pictures of those cute cats - and right next to a hard math assignment!”

Approaching the problem this way helps keep you connected to your child. Now you can move on to solving the problem.

Assume That Your Child Doesn’t Know How to Resist Media Multitasking

Young children do not have the executive functioning ability to consistently resist clicking the tempting cat video, and pre-teens and teens are just beginning to develop the cognitive capacities to do so.  Assume that your child does not know how to resist multitasking.  

In this case, your job is to help them develop this ability.  Think - how do I solve this problem in my own life?  Here are some common strategies to teach your child.

  • Turn off sounds/alerts
  • Temporarily disable chats
  • Move tempting apps out of sight
  • Close unneeded windows
  • Make work assignments fullscreen
  • Set focus goals ex: When I finish my assignment, I will take some time to watch YouTube
  • Use timers ex: 30 minutes of focus followed by a 10-minute online break
  • Sit near others who help ensure focus

Tell your child:

It’s not your fault that you click on YouTube... and I do need to teach you how to avoid doing this.  If we give in to these temptations, the constant switching around can actually decrease our brain’s capacity to learn and remember.  It also takes much longer to complete work.  Believe me, I’ve been there! Here is what I do to deal with this.  What do you think would help you? 

Work with your child to put a plan in place. It will take time for your child to develop this skill. Be patient. Stick with it. With practice, your child can learn this!

Check to See if Schoolwork Help is Needed

Adults and children will naturally toggle more when faced with particularly challenging OR particularly unengaging tasks. Becoming distracted by other online activities can be a sign that they are struggling with their schoolwork.  Ask them which subjects tend to be harder to focus on, and explore why this may be so.  Help them get more support in these particular areas.

Hold Firm Limits

I suggest holding a firm limit on media multitasking.  This does not mean obsessively looking at your children’s screens while they do school work this fall.  This will drive them crazy and it is not possible to enforce a rule that they can never get off task, especially with pre-teens and older.  Instead, pay attention to whether this behavior is interfering or compromising their schoolwork, and if so - make a change.

The overall message should be that they can only have the freedom to do their work online away from adults if 

  1. They have shown that they know how to avoid media multitasking AND
  2. They are reasonably willing to do so

If either of these is not the case, your child should do their schoolwork within the supervision of adults until they meet the above criteria. When they do, let them try doing schoolwork in their room once or twice per day, and build up from there.  If media-multitasking again interferes, bring them temporarily back into common space.  

Remember this like every new skill, this takes time and practice.  Be patient but stick with it.  Though they may not enjoy this process, at a deeper level they will be relieved to have help learning to manage this tricky aspect of the online world.  And the skills you are teaching are critical to their future success in the screen-filled world in which they will live.  

Sign up for our newsletter to get healthy screen time insights and tips from clinical psychologist, Dr. Demi Rhine.  

About Beyond Limits Academy

Beyond Limits is a simple step-by-step online program that teaches parents how to prepare their children for a lifetime of safe and healthy technology use. Going beyond just screen time limits, our skills-based approach provides a clear roadmap that reduces conflict and sets children up to manage their own tech use independently and responsibly. In an increasingly digital world, preparing our children to use technology wisely is no longer an option . . . it's a necessity.


End the constant screen time battles.  Join the movement here.

Continue Reading...

Using Screens to Numb Feelings

Aug 20, 2020

As a mom, I'm very aware of how stressful these times are for parents. We are juggling an impossible amount as we continue to make our way through this pandemic.  As school re-starts, I am also aware of how hard this time is on our children.

Many of our children are wondering if life will ever be the same. They miss their friends.  They worry about how they will learn without their teachers by their side. They are fearful of getting sick or that vulnerable loved ones may fall ill. They don’t want to be taught math by their stressed-out parents. This is part of the reason why so many of them are begging for more screen time.

So many children and adults turn to screens to numb out and avoid emotional discomfort. We feel awkward at a social event and reflexively reach for our phones. We feel lonely and suddenly find ourselves binge-watching a Netflix series. Screens provide endless distraction and as a result, give us relief from painful emotions. This is part of what makes screen time so addictive. 

However, this is a dangerous habit and one we do not want to encourage in our children. First of all, after being suppressed and pushed away, emotions can come back more powerful. This is the cause of some post-screen time tantrums. Second, our feelings are important messengers that tell us about our needs and wants, alert us to when something is wrong or not working for us, and keep us connected to our deeper selves. When we numb with screens (or anything else) we risk becoming disconnected from these internal signposts. Life becomes harder to manage. Relationships will be more confusing. It is harder to confront and overcome challenges. We don’t want this for our children.

Instead, let’s teach our children how to tolerate emotional discomfort, to understand their feelings, and listen to the information feelings communicate. We want to help them develop a healthy repertoire of strategies to soothe themselves in painful times, a repertoire that does not include potentially addictive activities such as screen time.  

So what does this look like in daily life?

Recognize the Pattern

Notice if your child tends to turn to their screens when they are upset. Last year my 8-year-old began to beg for the iPad after school. Then I learned that she was having difficulties with her friends at school. When I asked her about this, she said “Of course I want to watch a show! Then I can pretend everything is fine and not think about my stupid friends.”  Ding ding! A mother from my screen time workshop noticed her shy 12-year-old daughter picked up her cell phone each day during the carpool to gymnastics. Cha-ching! Our children will not likely notice this unhealthy pattern developing - so we must be vigilant.  

Connect with Your Child Around the Problem

The next step is to help your child understand that using screens to avoid pain is not a wise path. Start by validating that it makes sense to want screens when upset and that they are in good company - most people fall into this pattern at one time or another. Then explain the risk and what to do instead.  I said this to my daughter as she begged for the iPad after school:

After a hard day at school, it is totally understandable that you want to watch a show.  The show takes you into a different world and for a time, you can forget about your problems. I find myself picking up my phone too after hard days. The problem is that when we push away our feelings, they can come back stronger. Also, your anger at your friends may be telling you something important and if you push away your feelings, it will be harder to figure out what to do. Instead, let’s think of other things you can do that feel good to get through the feelings. 

Brainstorm Other Soothing Options

In general, temporarily distracting or soothing ourselves when upset can be very helpful.  However, distracting with screen time is problematic because it can be so numbing and addictive that little to no attention is paid to the feelings and problems at hand.   

The answer is to help your child come up with other ways to soothe themselves when upset.  Look for activities that help them feel comforted (such as cuddling with pets) or temporarily distracted (a family outing), but don’t lend themselves to addiction.  Here are some ideas:

Active: jumping on a trampoline, playing a sport, riding a bike/scooter, taking a walk, gardening, cooking

Creative: playing a musical instrument, drawing, journaling, painting nails, building Legos, playing with dolls

Relaxing: listening to a story, taking a warm bath/shower, reading, listening to music, playing board games/card games, petting a dog/cat

Comforting: using warm blankets, cuddling with stuffed animals, cuddling with a family member, using a hot water bottle/heating pad 

Your child will mostly resist turning to these soothing activities, and complain that none of them “work” to help them feel better.  With these options, your child must do more emotional work in tolerating their feelings because they are not so numb.  Don’t give up!  With practice, your child can learn to face their distress and soothe in healthy ways.  Dealing with pain will ultimately create the resilience we all want for our children. 

Sign up for our newsletter to get healthy screen time insights and tips from clinical psychologist, Dr. Demi Rhine.  

About Beyond Limits Academy

Beyond Limits is a simple step-by-step online program that teaches parents how to prepare their children for a lifetime of safe and healthy technology use. Going beyond just screen time limits, our skills-based approach provides a clear roadmap that reduces conflict and sets children up to manage their own tech use independently and responsibly. In an increasingly digital world, preparing our children to use technology wisely is no longer an option . . . it's a necessity.


End the constant screen time battles.  Join the movement here.

Continue Reading...

Why Can't I Have Screen Time? You're Always on YOUR Computer!

Aug 12, 2020

As we continue to work and learn from home, many parents are facing this question from their children: “Why can’t I have screen time? You’re always on your computer!” 

Until five months ago, parents worked while their children were in school and out of the house. Not anymore. Our children are surprised to see how much time we spend on our screens during the workday. They can’t see the logic of us telling them to log off and go play, while we continue online hour after hour. Parents are worried about creating an atmosphere of hypocrisy, but also need to get their work done. Here’s what to do:

Get Your Work Done

I hear of parents trying to hide their computer or phone usage, even when they’re online to get work done. Don’t! You already have too much stress - let’s not add hiding your screen time to the list.  

The reality is that much of what we need to do as adults and parents revolve around screens - more so every day. This is the reality of life in the 21st century.  Screens will be an unavoidable and deeply integrated part of your children’s adult lives too. Instead of hiding, let’s use this as an opportunity to teach your child about this reality, and how to manage it. 

Differentiate Entertainment from Work Screen Time

When your child asks why you get to stay online when they need to get off, It can be useful to show or tell them exactly what you are doing online. They tend to imagine that we are online doing what they want to do online - playing games, texting friends, looking up some cool youtube video. Ha! Not generally so! Tell them:

“As an adult, there are so many things I do on my phone. I’m rarely doing something for entertainment, though it may be hard to tell the difference from looking at me. On my phone, I work, organize your education and social life, get all the things we need for the house, pay all our bills, etc. This type of screen time is different from getting on to play games, text with friends, and watch videos or shows.”

When your child begins to understand that you’re usually doing boring but necessary adult things on your phone, they will begin to complain less about hypocrisy.  

Differentiate Children & Adult Screen Time

There are many areas of life where children and adults have different rules. The same is true for screen time. Adults have the fully developed brain necessary to manage screen time effectively and children do not. This is important for your child to understand. Here’s an example of what you can tell your child to help them understand, 

“As an adult, my brain is fully developed so I’m able to understand and manage the tricky aspects of screens. Children’s brains are still developing and some types of screen time may affect this development. Also, as you are still developing, you are learning how to deal with screen time. That’s why for now I need to tell you when to get on and off, when to take breaks, and when you have had too much. Over time, I will teach you to do this and you can balance and manage your own screen time.”

Your child may not like this distinction. But, if you offer a clear explanation, over time they will accept it and badger you less about being able to use screens as freely as you do. 

Show Them How You Manage Screen Time

This new reality of working in front of our children offers a unique opportunity to show them how you deal with the tricky aspects of life behind a screen. This is valuable information for them so don’t miss the opportunity! Show them how you stay focused on work tasks and avoid clicking on every alert that comes through.  Explain to them how you know when you need a break from your screen (when your neck hurts? when your eyes are blurry? between every meeting?) and see if they can begin to identify their own physical and emotional cues for breaktime.  

You can even share your screen time struggles - how it can be difficult for you to get off social media, how you sometimes find yourself down a YouTube rabbit hole when you should be finishing a project. This will help them feel normal and less judged for their screen time struggles. Describe the strategies you use to manage these struggles (or at least try to use). Have a good laugh together! Screen time can hook us all! 

Family Screen-Free Time

It is more important than ever to create and honor family screen-free times. These times accomplish two important things:

  • By putting down our phone for meals, family outings, or even just a 10-minute break during a busy day, we model balance for our children. They see us resist the temptation to constantly check our phones and we show them this is doable (though often hard!). 
  • Screen-free times allow us to connect with our children with our full attention - no distractions. Connection is more important than ever as our children are also experiencing stress under these current circumstances and need to know we are tuned into their needs. Connection allows us to have some fun, share some laughs, have a tickle session, or bake some cookies together. Our children will be less resentful of our constant screen time when they feel they also have our attention at predictable times throughout the day.

Children are perceptive and sensitive to what’s “fair” and “unfair”. When they see you doing the thing that you’re asking them not to do, it elicits strong feelings of inequity. This is where some of the struggles occur over screen time - a lack of connectedness, you versus your child. By letting your child in on why and how you are using screen time and why it’s different for adults versus children, they start to understand that you’re not just being mean or hypocritical. Connecting will help you and your child navigate screen time as a team. During this pandemic, we could all use more connection.

Sign up for our newsletter to get healthy screen time insights and tips from clinical psychologist, Dr. Demi Rhine.  

About Beyond Limits Academy

Beyond Limits is a simple step-by-step online program that teaches parents how to prepare their children for a lifetime of safe and healthy technology use. Going beyond just screen time limits, our skills-based approach provides a clear roadmap that reduces conflict and sets children up to manage their own tech use independently and responsibly. In an increasingly digital world, preparing our children to use technology wisely is no longer an option . . . it's a necessity.


End the constant screen time battles.  Join the movement here.

Continue Reading...

How to Set Up an Effective Screen Time Plan During Remote Learning

Aug 06, 2020

With the start of the school year inching closer each day, many parents are scrambling to figure out how to make it all work. Screen time is a big question mark for many families.  

What does a screen time plan look like when school is streaming on zoom? Can children watch movies even after doing online education? How much is too much? While we will not get this perfect (and shouldn’t aim for perfection), here are some good ways to structure screen time during remote learning.

Separate Entertainment Screen Time From Other Screen Time

This was covered in last week's blog and is worth repeating again. All screen time is not created equal. If your child is learning or creating online, it is not the same as passively consuming a show, videos, or a game. Screen time that helps kids develop or deepen relationships is not the same as screen time that replaces human interaction. Count these types of screen time separately. Trust your gut to evaluate the high-quality screen time from the more concerning type of time spent online.

Tell your child:

“You will be doing school on the computer and will continue to stay in touch with your friends online as well. Separate from this, you will get an amount of screen time each day/week that is for pure entertainment. It’s not the same to learn or socialize online as it is to play games and watch videos.”

Set A Routine That Includes Scheduled Screen Time

We are living in a global crisis and embarking on an unprecedented school year. We are anxious about how to manage this new normal, and our children are similarly afraid. Will I ever go to school again? How will I understand my schoolwork without a teacher by my side?  Having a routine is inherently soothing. With routine comes clarity and predictability. Setting a routine for your child’s day is critical to a successful fall semester. Here is an example:

8:00 - 9:00 am: Get ready, Eat Breakfast, Chores

9:00 - 11:30 am: Educational Screen Time

11:30 - 12:00 pm: Outdoors/Play

12:00 - 1:00 pm: Lunch, clean up

1:00 - 2:30 pm: Educational Screen Time

2:30 - 3:30 pm: Outdoors/ Play

3:30 - 4:00 pm: Social Screen Time

4:00 - 4:30 pm: Outdoors / Play

4:30 - 5:30 pm: Entertainment Screen Time

5:30- 6:30 pm - Dinner

6:30- 8:00 pm - Family Hang Out

8:00 - 9:00 pm: Reading, Bedtime

Tailor this to your family and schooling needs but keep in mind a few key points:

  • Alternate online and offline time so your child can physically and emotionally reset after screen time.  
  • Be clear about when and how much entertainment screen time they will get. 
  • Put entertainment screen time late in the day so your child can look forward to it.
  • Aim for consistency but since that will be impossible, just clearly tell your child that extra entertainment screen time is for that day alone.  Tomorrow, back to the routine.  

In addition to screen time, each day should ideally include some exercise, chores, face-to-face interaction, and unstructured hang out time or play. When this happens, call it a massive success!  

Keep an Eye Out for Signs of Screen Time Overdose

Parents often agonize about finding that ‘perfect’ amount of screen time. In general, this approach is problematic, but during a pandemic, this is downright parental torture. Instead of obsessing about an exact number, watch how screen time affects your child to decide when enough is enough.  

If your child is constantly moody, withdrawn, angry, or defiant after screen time, these can be signs that their screen time is negatively affecting them. It could be the content of the screen time - a game that leaves them amped up, videos that expose them to age-inappropriate material, schoolwork they don’t understand. It could also be the amount of time in front of the screen. Make changes if possible. Replace the shows or games. Cut down on optional screen time hours. Talk to their teacher. Your child may be angry about the changes, but letting them continue is akin to giving them food that causes an allergic reaction. It’s not safe. 

Stay Connected With Your Child

It’s easy for screen time to become a flashpoint for everyone’s frustrations with this stressful time. Instead, try to stay connected to your child. Regularly check in to explore their feelings about how the pandemic has changed their lives. Validate your child’s desire to connect with their friends and be entertained. Let them know you want them to enjoy these benefits of screen time during this difficult period - you just need to keep them safe and balanced along the way. Try to have some fun together each day. Giggle, tickle, bike ride, rough house, bake, build, play, dance, hang… and yes, even watch movies together. It may be this more than anything else that will keep your child emotionally protected through this challenging time.  

Our children will inevitably get more screen time than we ever imagined during this upcoming school year. However, this doesn’t need to be a struggle. With the right routine, we can maintain enough of a healthy balance between various types of screen time and other important life activities. With vigilance, we can notice when enough is enough. With connection, we can (and will) survive this intact, together.  

Sign up for our newsletter (click the 'sign up' button on this page) to get healthy screen time insights and tips from clinical psychologist, Dr. Demi Rhine.  

About Beyond Limits Academy

Beyond Limits is a simple step-by-step online program that teaches parents how to prepare their children for a lifetime of safe and healthy technology use. Going beyond just screen time limits, our skills-based approach provides a clear roadmap that reduces conflict and sets children up to manage their own tech use independently and responsibly. In an increasingly digital world, preparing our children to use technology wisely is no longer an option . . . it's a necessity.


End the constant screen time battles.  Join the movement here.

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3 Tips For Return to School Screen Time Changes

Jul 31, 2020

Now that many of us will begin the school year with remote learning, parents are panicking about the increase in screen time. Many parents have allowed extra screen time to survive - a short term solution to a tough situation.  

Now what? As remote learning becomes a longer-term situation, many parents are uncomfortable with the amount of screen time their children have been getting but don’t know how to make the transition.  

Here are 3 tips for preparing for the upcoming school year - scaling back screen time without escalating conflict.

TIP #1: Communicate Expectations Now 

Don’t wait until school starts to communicate that screen time changes are coming. Do this now.  

Your child is as anxious about the upcoming school year as you are. They are nervous about learning from home. They miss their friends and fear life will never be the same. If you wait until school begins, when you’re both stressed, to break the news about less screen time, conflict is likely.

Instead, let them know now that screen time changes are coming. Tell them,

“You got extra screen time because we suddenly had to stay home so much, and we all struggled to handle the changes.  Even though it is fun, it’s not healthy to continue with as much as you have now. Once school starts, we will scale back, so enjoy your last few weeks of extra screen time!”

Letting them know in advance gives them time to prepare. Encouraging them to enjoy their last few weeks lets them know you are not anti-technology or trying to punish them. You are simply scaling back in order to secure their emotional and physical well-being.   

TIP #2: Separate Entertainment Screen Time From Other Screen Time

All screen time is not created equal. It is not the same to do an educational math program online as it is to play a game. It is not the same to make a video with iMovie as it is to watch a YouTube video made by someone else. 

There is an important difference between active engagement and passive consumption of media - these types of activities engage different parts of the brain and have different impacts emotionally and developmentally. This distinction has never been so important for parents to understand.  

Entertainment screen time is generally the source of conflict, so decide now how much will be appropriate for your child come fall- regardless of how much time they will spend online for school and social purposes. Then explain to your child what will happen: 

“You will be doing school on the computer and will continue to stay in touch with your friends online as well.  Separate from this, you will get an amount of screen time each day/week that is for pure entertainment. It’s not the same to learn or socialize online as it is to play games and watch videos,”

Note: Parents rightly ask whether group games count as social or entertainment. To determine, assess the nature of the game.  Which parts of the brain are likely engaged? Group online chess  = educational / social; Group Fortnite = entertainment.   

TIP #3: Set A Screen Time Routine

Set a screen time routine now that can continue once school starts.   This will communicate clear expectations and give you something to build on when remote learning begins. 

Sample Schedule:

8:30-10 am: Get ready, Eat Breakfast, Chores

10-11:00 am: Educational Screen Time

11:00 - 12:30 pm: Outdoors

12:30-1:30 pm: Lunch

1:30 - 3 pm: Playtime

3 - 4 pm: Social Screen Time

4-5:30: Entertainment Screen Time

5:30- 6:30 - Dinner

6:30- 8 pm - Family Hang Out

8 - 9 pm: Reading, Go to Bed 

This is just an example, but you can see how this summer schedule can easily morph into a fall schedule by expanding Educational Screen Time in the mornings.  Starting this type of routine now will make the fall changes much easier for you and your child to make.  

This coming school year is unprecedented and will inevitably be marked by surprise and unpredictability.  By clearly communicating expectations, explaining the differences between various types of screen time, and starting a routine now, you set yourself and your child up for a clear & smooth transition, at least in the area of screen time.

Sign up for our newsletter (click the 'sign up' button on this page) to get healthy screen time insights and tips from clinical psychologist, Dr. Demi Rhine.  

About Beyond Limits Academy

Beyond Limits is a simple step-by-step online program that teaches parents how to prepare their children for a lifetime of safe and healthy technology use. Going beyond just screen time limits, our skills-based approach provides a clear roadmap that reduces conflict and sets children up to manage their own tech use independently and responsibly. In an increasingly digital world, preparing our children to use technology wisely is no longer an option . . . it's a necessity.


End the constant screen time battles.  Join the movement here.

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5 Tips for Taming Screen Time Tantrums

Jul 23, 2020

“Nooooo. That’s not fair. I want to keep playing my game!!!” Does that sound familiar? At some point, most of our children have thrown a tantrum when told that their screen time is up. With the increase in screen time during COVID, more children are having difficulty logging off. So what do you do? Keep reading to learn 5 key tips for dealing with screen time tantrums.

Tip #1: Connect with your child

The first thing parents need to do is stay connected with their children. Logging off brings up big feelings for children, and their resistance to doing so brings up big feelings for parents! This can easily turn into a pattern of screen time conflict.  An easy mindset shift can prevent this from happening.  Normally parents approach screen time from a mindset of  “Screen time is terrible, get off now!” Instead, try saying “I absolutely understand why it’s so hard to get off of devices. They are built to hook your attention and keep you wanting more. I get it - I have a hard time logging off too sometimes. Let’s figure out how we can help make it easier.” Making this mindset shift lets your child know that it’s not their fault that it’s hard to unhook.  It is hard for everyone including you, and that you are in this together. By connecting with your child you are opening the door to a discussion that can lead to teaching your child the art of logging off their screen time.  You cannot influence your child if you are not connected with them.

Tip #2: Set a screen time routine

Children do better when they have a routine and know what to expect and when. It’s no different with screen time. Schedule screen time at the same time and duration every day. For example, my children do an hour of educational screen time from 10-11 am.  Then at 4 pm, they can use the family iPad for an hour of any age-appropriate content that they choose. A screen time routine reduces the constant, “Can I have my screen time now?” and makes it easier for children to engage in other activities as they know exactly when and how much screen time they will get.  

Tip #3: Pre-plan for log off time  

Make sure you and your child have come up with a plan in advance for how to help them log off. Talk your child through what they will do to wind down and shut down and what the plan is if they find it hard to unhook from their device. Perhaps you help set a timer that gives them 5 minutes to start to wrap up what they are doing online. Perhaps you can agree together on an enjoyable activity they can do after logging off, to make the unhooking process easier.  For some children, a way to celebrate their log off successes may help - a sticker chart, a special treat or a hug and tickle from a parent.  When the log off time comes along, make sure to be there to support their follow through on the plan.  Remember that logging off is difficult for all of us, so stay connected as they try to enact the plan you made together.   Having a plan makes it easier to anticipate and overcome difficulties when they arise. 

Tip #4: When all else fails...remove & rebuild

 If the first 3 tips aren’t working for your child, this is a sign that they are “in over their heads” with screen time.  They either can’t unhook or they aren’t (yet) willing to try.  Whichever the case, a screen time break will help.  Tell them that screen time is only available to children who can unhook enough to log off and that they will need to take a break from screen time until they seem ready to try again. Give your child a few days to unhook entirely (or just allow school-related tasks, if they’re back in school) and when you think they are ready, start again with a small amount of screen time to continue working on unhooking.  When they can log off without throwing a tantrum, slowly give them a bit more time until you reach their screen time limit.  This strategy will motivate your child to work on unhooking and allows you to see how much screen time your child can handle successfully. 

Tip #5: Don’t give up. You can do this.

Teach your child that tantrums won’t work. Throwing a tantrum should not result in getting screen time. Children should only be allowed more screen time when they have shown that they are able to responsibly manage it. In this case, a tantrum demonstrates the opposite - that they are not ready for the screen time that they have been given. This lesson may take a while to sink in but don’t give up, you’ll get there. 

This process is critical to the overall goal of equipping your child with the skills and habits needed for healthy tech use.  Logging off is hard for many adults so try to be patient with your child who hasn’t developed all of the cognitive skills to self-regulate their tech use! Teaching a child the art of unhooking is giving them a gift that will last a lifetime.  

Sign up for our newsletter (click the 'sign up' button on this page) to get healthy screen time insights and tips from clinical psychologist, Dr. Demi Rhine.  

About Beyond Limits Academy

Beyond Limits is a simple step-by-step online program that teaches parents how to prepare their children for a lifetime of safe and healthy technology use. Going beyond just screen time limits, our skills-based approach provides a clear roadmap that reduces conflict and sets children up to manage their own tech use independently and responsibly. In an increasingly digital world, preparing our children to use technology wisely is no longer an option . . . it's a necessity.


End the constant screen time battles.  Join the movement here.

Continue Reading...

What to Do When Your Child Sneaks Screen Time

Jul 15, 2020

At some point or another, most kids sneak screen time. They stay on for an extra half hour while you’re distracted or lie to the babysitter about how much screen time you have authorized. They may even grab their phone from the docking station after you’re asleep. 

To understand how to address sneaking, we must first answer this question: Why would an otherwise honest kid go to these extremes for screen time?.

Children sneak because they’ve gotten hooked. Apps, games, platforms, and devices are designed specifically to hook our attention. Developers have studied the types of stimuli that best capture our attention and the types of rewards that keep us wanting more. Everyone is susceptible to getting hooked, including our children.

Although it’s not our children’s fault that they get hooked, dishonesty around screen time must be addressed. We cannot guide our children to use screens in healthy ways if they aren’t honest with us. So how do we handle the sneaking?

Connect With Your Child

In my clinical practice, I have seen children land in dangerous situations when they don’t trust their parents with the details of their online lives. Screen time mistakes do happen. Staying connected to children in these moments is critical to establishing the trust necessary to keep them safe online.

I once caught my daughter hiding in the closet playing a game on our iPad during homework time. At first, I reprimanded her for being dishonest and took the iPad away. We ended up disconnected, and all she learned from the exchange was that her mother is mean and doesn’t want her to enjoy games! 

I knew there was a better way. I asked her for a “redo.”  This time I started by connecting with her.

“I understand why you want to play this game. I enjoy my online games too. I see how fun it is for you and I want you to be able to enjoy it.”

With this approach, she felt understood instead of judged. She knew I was being honest because I do enjoy my screen time. Connected to me, she was more likely to learn from the dialogue that came next.

Educate About The Tricky Aspects of Screen Time

Next, I educated her about how the design of the game left her wanting more, and we explored how this led her to sneaking.  

“The people who developed that game really know how to make it hook children. They make it really fun and rewarding by moving up levels and earning points. This leaves you thinking about the game and wanting more even when it isn’t your screen time. Does that sound like what happened?”

Instead of acting like she was the problem, I helped her identify the real problem - the design of the game.

Motivate To Learn Healthy Tech Use

Now I needed to teach her how to unhook from her game.  But first, I needed her to get on board with this process.

“Though I totally understand how this happened, it’s not OK for you to sneak screen time. In this house, you get screen time when you use it in healthy ways. This means being honest and working on not getting hooked. Sneaking is a sign that you are hooked, so you will take a couple of days off screens. When you are ready to work on unhooking and staying honest, you can try again. Make sense?”

Though she didn’t like it, the plan was clear and fair and protected her from getting too hooked. She was motivated to work on healthy tech use because her screen time depended on it.

Make a Plan for Practicing Healthy Tech Use

My daughter’s “break” from screen time lasted two days. At that point, I could tell she was ready to handle screen time in a new way. We looked at her game together and figured out what had hooked her. We explored whether it was a game she could manage or not. We made a plan for what she could do next time she wanted to play at the wrong time (hide the iPad, distract herself, remember that sneaking will make her lose screen time). She got her screen time back and was now motivated to use it more honestly. 

Instead of punishing when your child sneaks screen time, use it as an opportunity to teach them about healthy tech use. Give them a screen time break, help them make a plan, and then send them back online to work on enjoying screen time without getting hooked. 

Sign up for our newsletter (click the 'sign up' button on this page) to get healthy screen time insights and tips from clinical psychologist, Dr. Demi Rhine.  

About Beyond Limits Academy

Beyond Limits is a simple step-by-step online program that teaches parents how to prepare their children for a lifetime of safe and healthy technology use. Going beyond just screen time limits, our skills-based approach provides a clear roadmap that reduces conflict and sets children up to manage their own tech use independently and responsibly. In an increasingly digital world, preparing our children to use technology wisely is no longer an option . . . it's a necessity.


End the constant screen time battles.  Join the movement here.

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