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5 Healthy Screen Time Tips for Pre-teens

“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.


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