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  • Writer's pictureAnika

When is screen time ok and who decides this?

Updated: Jul 21, 2023

Welcome to part 2 of our 3-part Screen Time series. I've found that screen time can be such a minefield and each family has their unique way of regulating this. So this series is very much about how we as a family have gone about screen times in our house! For me, there is a time and a place for screens - when the kids (or I) are tired, the weather is rubbish, or I've got urgent work commitments that can't wait, screens can be great. We also love our movie night each week!

But I nevertheless know, that there are times when we simply have too much screen time and that the kids show distinctive behaviours when this happens (you can find the recording of last week's conversation around these behaviours here in case you missed it).

When we have some ground rules and boundaries around screens we are all happier and we connect more. So this week's conversation is all about how we as a family decided on when screen time is ok and what kind of 'family rules' we've put around this. I'll share with you the questions we asked ourselves to get to our 'family rules' and what these are (see downloadable links below).

So when is screen time ok in our family and how did we determine this?

To determine when to build in screen time during the day, we decided to sit down together as a family this week to all have our say as to when works and when doesn’t. For me, there needs to be some time to connect straight after school pick up, play or chat together, for the kids to have a snack or for us to go to the park for a bit of fresh air. The other thing that was really important for me, was that we don't have screen time too close to bedtime, as this was having a real impact on the kids ability to wind down for the night and sleep well.

For Josh (my 9 year old) it was important to have some certainty as to what to expect and be able to look forward to his screen time. It surprised me that the amount of screen time was not actually that important to him in the end. I was convinced this was what his main motivation would be - but when we all sat down and unpicked what really mattered to each of us, it was more about it being a predictable, reliable time each day for Josh. He didn't like the feeling of being 'controlled' by others and at the mercy of us saying yes or no to screens on any given day. He craved the autonomy to know for himself when he could go and spend time on his screen and be involved in the decision process to create these rules. The second point that was important for him was to be able to be online when some of his friends are, so that they can play together.

For Isla and Rupert (4.5 and 3 respectively) the important thing was to have a little bit of downtime – especially towards the end of the week, when they are tired and tend to bicker rather than enjoy playing together. Again, when we unpicked this a bit more, it turned out that what they watched (or how much) was pretty irrelevant. The bit that they looked forward to most were the special snacks that went with having a movie night or some downtime in front of the TV. And if (as we do every now and again) they could have a full blown picnic in the lounge then that was even better!

So, in our family, the plan we have come up with and collectively agreed on, is to have no screens before 4.30pm and no screens just before bedtime (to take on board what was important to me and my husband). Things such as homework need to be done first, and there is a dedicated slot for reading each evening for each child. Then, after 4.30pm on weekdays the children can rely on us to allow screens to be turned on, no questions asked. They pretty much get turned back off again when it is time to sit down for dinner around 5.30pm - but that seems to satisfy the children, now that they know they can expect TV again the next day. Joshua is allowed to have a little bit more screen time while I do bedtime for Isla and Rupert - and this is the time he gets to play with his friends, which is really important to him. But, he switches off around 7.30 at the latest, so that he can wind down before bedtime as well (which was important to my husband and I).

We’ve also agreed that the weekends are slightly different (and more flexible). At the weekends the kids can have an hour of TV or screens first thing – so that Mummy and Daddy get a bit of lie in, and they experience a sense of independence deciding what they want to watch and how! And on Friday nights there is the exception to the rule - we have a movie night together as a family. Sometimes this involves Pizza takeout eaten as a picnic or with trays in front of the TV, sometimes we have food early before the movie and then have popcorn as 'desert' with our film.

I’m a visual person and I love a poster – so I have created an overview of what our screen time ‘family rules’ are (with a blank page for you to create your own), plus there is a template with the questions we asked ourselves as a family when deciding on these. Feel free to download these if you find stuff like that equally helpful ;-) The links can be found here:

Our Screen time 'rules' poster
Screen Time Rules Poster
Download PDF • 30KB

Questions to ask as a family
Qs to help you agree screen time family rules
Download PDF • 761KB



Playlist for Monday night conversations:

Playlist for Tip Tuesday conversations:


Join me next Monday night on Facebook and YouTube for a conversation around ideas for things to do instead of screen time. It is all well and good realising that you have too much screen time and putting some boundaries around this as a family - but what on Earth do you do instead!? :-) I've put together a list of activities we've either tried already, or are planning to as a family and what worked well and what didn't...

If you want to watch Monday's conversation you can watch a recording of it here (the link will work once the recording is available):

Our Monday evening parenting conversations are a new way we want to connect with you.

Every Monday evening we now do a quick 15 minute video conversation, talking all things family. Our mission is help make parents’ lives a little bit easier by sharing with you the things that do (and don’t) work in our family, keeping things real and building a supportive community of likeminded parents. We want to cover topics that really matter to you and connect with you by sharing our stories, trials and tribulations, useful insights, lessons learnt, book reviews, topics that you have requested and things that I have tried as a mum of 3 that I have found helpful.

The aim is to give you a boost, a giggle or a virtual hug – and share something that you might find interesting or useful for your upcoming week with your family. I recognize that every family and every family situation is different – so some topics might resonate with you one week, but the topic the next week might not, and the one the week after might again – and that is ok.

I’d love your comments as we go too and do share any topic suggestions that you might have. Simply email me at or respond to me on Instagram or FB at mummymadethis.

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