Screen Time Rules

Finally, Screen Time rules That Actually Work For Your Family

Delaney Ruston, MD
August 29, 2023
Piece of paper on a refrigerator with screen time rules around famity time, study time and sleep time

Last week, I wrote about my top 3 steps for successfully creating healthier tech policies at home. Folks got back to me requesting specific screen time policies to consider. My past blogs have provided examples, but I’ll expand further today. 

I want to share my top 3 main screen time categories and offer many options of rules that can be tailored to your specific family. Let’s be real that policies for a 10-year-old will be different for a 17-year-old. Then there are factors such as kid’s maturity levels, outside activities, sibling dynamics, bandwidth of parents/guardians, and the list goes on. For this reason, having many ideas can be helpful. 

Let’s get started. The three screen time categories are the following:

  1. Family Time
  2. Study Time
  3. Sleep Time

FAMILY TIME

Going out together:

  • When you go out as a family, their phone (if they have one) gets kept at home. I am always surprised and tickled when my daughter is home from college, and we go out to do something, and she says, “I’m going to leave my phone here. ” I smile, and we head out the door.
  • The policy could be that when you go out together, you, the parent, hold onto their phone. Recently, I was interviewing a mom and her teen daughter at Pike Place Market in Seattle. I asked the teen daughter if she had a phone. She replied, “Yes, I do, but right now, I don’t.” When I asked why not, she added, “It’s in my mom’s purse.” She and her mom then explained to me that they had this rule that the mom kept her phone for much of the time when they were out and about together. It was sweet because they were smiling, and the teen said she thought this policy worked well.
  • Devices are always kept out of kids’ bedrooms. Or, it could be just some days of the week. Or it could be in bedrooms only on Saturday if the week went well with helping around the house, etc.  
Join
443
others who have made the pledge!
Thank you for making the pledge!
Please try again
Book page button

Available now - Parenting in the Screen Age, from Screenagers filmmaker Delaney Ruston MD

Order Here
Find A screening Button

Find a Screening - Find a screening of our movies in your local community

Learn More

Screenagers Podcast - Join Screenagers filmmaker Delaney Ruston MD for the latest Podcast

Learn More
Book page button

Available now - Parenting in the Screen Age, from Screenagers filmmaker Delaney Ruston MD

Learn More
Host a Screening Button

Community Screenings - Learn more about hosting your own Screenagers community screening event!

Learn More
Parenting In The Screen Age Book Cover

Free Book Preview - Download a free preview of "Parenting In The Screen Age" by Delaney Ruston, MD

Learn More

Join Today - Members can screen and view our movies year-round, access new lesson plans, resources and much more!

Learn More
Screenagers Under The Influence Banner

Our New Movie - Learn more about the third movie in the Screenagers Trilogy

Learn More

The Screenagers YouTube Channel - Subscribe for new videos and content from our team weekly!

Learn More

Family time in the car (parent driving): 

I put this under family time because it is such an important time for chatting, listening to the radio together, and watching the world pass by together…

  • The policy could be that when teens gets in the car, a few minutes are allowed for checking phones. Consider waiting to start driving while the checking is happening. Of course, this could be awkward if this is a school pickup and the child/teen wants to leave the premises, in which case, you could drive to a new spot and stop. 

What is helpful about this waiting-to-drive technique is that it is natural to want to get going when you get in a car, so it helps to ensure the set time period happens with less “wait, wait, just one more minute.” Also, it models uncoupling being on the phone while the car is moving.

Or the policy might be that phones and devices are away for routine weekly driving, but things are different for longer car rides. 

Family time at the table

For meals apart (i.e., weekday breakfasts), perhaps they are allowed to be on their device a couple of mornings or even every morning (as is often the case with older teens)

Perhaps the family sits down, and everyone gets to check their phone for a couple of minutes before phones get put away. This can be helpful if a parent has had the habit of checking or needing to answer work calls at dinner-this quick check can prevent such things.

STUDY TIME

There is NOTHING straightforward about parenting screen time when it comes to our kids’ study time. Intertwining the tools with the treats of tech was one of the main reasons I started all this work. One thing, though, that has become ever more clear is that the last thing we want to do is engage in a cat-and-mouse chase when it comes to kids and their homework. We are not trying to trap and punish them but are working with them to get schoolwork done in light of the 4 billion and thirty-three tempting treats on devices.

  • Devices get kept out of the bedroom, so study time is in a common space.
  • When studying, phones are kept in another room, allowing periodic breaks to check them. How much time between checking can be negotiated--and yes, they can go off task on a computer, but at least the phone is one less distraction. 
  • Bedtime is set at ___ o’clock (negotiated with the child if possible). That means devices get put away even if homework is not done. Let them know that exceptions, like finals, can happen now and then, but this policy will be kept most days.
Host a Screening Button

Community Screenings - Learn more about hosting your own Screenagers community screening event!

Learn More
Find A screening Button

Find a Screening - Find a screening of our movies in your local community

Learn More
Screenagers Podcast

Screenagers Podcast - Join Screenagers filmmaker Delaney Ruston MD for the latest Podcast

Learn More
Book page button

Available now - Parenting in the Screen Age, from Screenagers filmmaker Delaney Ruston MD

Learn More
Host a Screening Button

Community Screenings - Learn more about hosting your own Screenagers community screening event!

Learn More
Parenting In The Screen Age Book Cover

Free Book Preview - Download a free preview of "Parenting In The Screen Age" by Delaney Ruston, MD

Learn More

Join Today - Members can screen and view our movies year-round, access new lesson plans, resources and much more!

Learn More
Screenagers Under The Influence Banner

Our New Movie - Learn more about the third movie in the Screenagers Trilogy

Learn More

The Screenagers YouTube Channel - Subscribe for new videos and content from our team weekly!

Learn More

What is beautiful about a specific bedtime is that this gives them an extra incentive not to switch tabs on their computers as much — meaning they know that if they dip into digital playgrounds rather than finish the work at hand, they will face the natural consequence of getting behind. I know it is scary to think that they won’t regulate well and they will miss doing assignments. Yet, by staying firm, our kids can learn to manage their time better and better. If they cannot, then getting advice and support is appropriate.

What about if their bedtime is after yours?  Commit to staying up to whatever bedtime gets set. Later, when the system is in place, and they know to drop off devices in your room at the time decided, you can hit the hay earlier. Many families have made this work. It is worth a try if you are not yet one of them. 

SLEEP TIME

  • Sleep time is screen-free all week (meaning devices are out of the bedroom). 
  • Or out of the bedroom six nights a week, and then a treat is getting it one night a weekend.
  • Out of the bedroom only during the school week, thus Sunday night through Thursday night

It is not surprising that reading these rules can spark judgments in us, such as, "Wow, that policy seems way too lenient. Or no way about that one, it seems so over-controlling."  But remember, we are talking about a large range of ages, and one never knows the full breadth of what is happening in any home around tech time and non-tech time. 

And finally, I firmly believe that we, our kids and us, are all doing the best we can at any given moment given our internal and external resources. Onward with grace to all of us!

Questions to get the discussion going 

1. Now that we are back (or nearly back in school), what was the smoothest area regarding screen time rules among these three categories? Study time, family time, or sleep time?

2. What was the hardest of the three?

3. Let’s experiment with a new policy. What do we think of the ideas mentioned here, and what ideas do we all have?

Here is a video from the Screenagers YouTube Channel that talks more about this subject

Book page button

Available now - Parenting in the Screen Age, from Screenagers filmmaker Delaney Ruston MD

Order Here
Find A screening Button

Find a Screening - Find a screening of our movies in your local community

Learn More

Screenagers Podcast - Join Screenagers filmmaker Delaney Ruston MD for the latest Podcast

Learn More
Book page button

Available now - Parenting in the Screen Age, from Screenagers filmmaker Delaney Ruston MD

Learn More
Host a Screening Button

Community Screenings - Learn more about hosting your own Screenagers community screening event!

Learn More
Parenting In The Screen Age Book Cover

Free Book Preview - Download a free preview of "Parenting In The Screen Age" by Delaney Ruston, MD

Learn More

Join Today - Members can screen and view our movies year-round, access new lesson plans, resources and much more!

Learn More
Screenagers Under The Influence Banner

Our New Movie - Learn more about the third movie in the Screenagers Trilogy

Learn More

The Screenagers YouTube Channel - Subscribe for new videos and content from our team weekly!

Learn More
Host a Screening Button

Community Screenings - Learn more about hosting your own Screenagers community screening event!

Learn More
Find A screening Button

Find a Screening - Find a screening of our movies in your local community

Learn More

Screenagers Podcast - Join Screenagers filmmaker Delaney Ruston MD for the latest Podcast

Learn More
Book page button

Available now - Parenting in the Screen Age, from Screenagers filmmaker Delaney Ruston MD

Learn More
Host a Screening Button

Community Screenings - Learn more about hosting your own Screenagers community screening event!

Learn More
Parenting In The Screen Age Book Cover

Free Book Preview - Download a free preview of "Parenting In The Screen Age" by Delaney Ruston, MD

Learn More

Join Today - Members can screen and view our movies year-round, access new lesson plans, resources and much more!

Learn More
Screenagers Under The Influence Banner

Our New Movie - Learn more about the latest movie in the Screenagers Trilogy

Learn More

The Screenagers YouTube Channel - Subscribe for new videos and content from our team weekly!

Learn More
Screen Time Rules

Finally, Screen Time rules That Actually Work For Your Family

Delaney Ruston, MD
August 29, 2023
Piece of paper on a refrigerator with screen time rules around famity time, study time and sleep time

Last week, I wrote about my top 3 steps for successfully creating healthier tech policies at home. Folks got back to me requesting specific screen time policies to consider. My past blogs have provided examples, but I’ll expand further today. 

I want to share my top 3 main screen time categories and offer many options of rules that can be tailored to your specific family. Let’s be real that policies for a 10-year-old will be different for a 17-year-old. Then there are factors such as kid’s maturity levels, outside activities, sibling dynamics, bandwidth of parents/guardians, and the list goes on. For this reason, having many ideas can be helpful. 

Let’s get started. The three screen time categories are the following:

  1. Family Time
  2. Study Time
  3. Sleep Time

FAMILY TIME

Going out together:

  • When you go out as a family, their phone (if they have one) gets kept at home. I am always surprised and tickled when my daughter is home from college, and we go out to do something, and she says, “I’m going to leave my phone here. ” I smile, and we head out the door.
  • The policy could be that when you go out together, you, the parent, hold onto their phone. Recently, I was interviewing a mom and her teen daughter at Pike Place Market in Seattle. I asked the teen daughter if she had a phone. She replied, “Yes, I do, but right now, I don’t.” When I asked why not, she added, “It’s in my mom’s purse.” She and her mom then explained to me that they had this rule that the mom kept her phone for much of the time when they were out and about together. It was sweet because they were smiling, and the teen said she thought this policy worked well.
  • Devices are always kept out of kids’ bedrooms. Or, it could be just some days of the week. Or it could be in bedrooms only on Saturday if the week went well with helping around the house, etc.  

More Like This

My 3 steps for successfully creating healthier tech policies at home
August 22, 2023
Screen Time Rules

My 3 steps for successfully creating healthier tech policies at home

It’s back-to-school time and an ideal time to readdress screen time at home. Ahhhhh, so not easy! When we approach emotionally triggering topics with our kids, having a road map, including specific things to say, can be extremely helpful. I know all too well that without those things, my reactive brain can take over, and everything can go sideways. Eleven years now into studying the intersection of biology, psychology, communication science, and parenting screen time, I offer my top 3 steps for creating new or cementing existing tech time policies as back-to-school kicks off.

READ MORE >
When Screen Time Rules Are Broken (blogcast)
July 11, 2023
Screen Time Rules

When Screen Time Rules Are Broken (blogcast)

Today, I'm writing (and podcasting) about skillful ways to respond when tech rules get broken by our kids, which is one of the most challenging aspects of parenting. It's important to acknowledge that when I mention rules related to screen time, I’m referring to rules developed through family efforts and input from kids whenever possible. I will give some specific examples of what a parent might say in an effort to validate when kids are indeed following a rule.

READ MORE >
Summer Reset — Online and Offline
June 6, 2023
Screen Time Rules

Summer Reset — Online and Offline

This summer I'm recording podcasts based on my Screenagers' Tech Talk Tuesday blogs. I'm calling these BLOGCASTS.‍ Today I'm talking about a summer reset, both in terms of screen time policies in our homes and ideas for things to do off screens.

READ MORE >

parenting in the screen age

for more like this, DR. DELANEY RUSTON'S NEW BOOK, PARENTING IN THE SCREEN AGE, IS THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE FOR TODAY’S PARENTS. WITH INSIGHTS ON SCREEN TIME FROM RESEARCHERS, INPUT FROM KIDS & TEENS, THIS BOOK IS PACKED WITH SOLUTIONS FOR HOW TO START AND SUSTAIN PRODUCTIVE FAMILY TALKS ABOUT TECHNOLOGY AND IT’S IMPACT ON OUR MENTAL WELLBEING.  

ORDER HERE
Parenting in the Screen Age book cover