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Beyond Screen Time Limits

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

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 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.

Continue Reading...

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.

Continue Reading...
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