The Best Screen Time Rules for Families

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If you’re like me, your kids’ screen time can easily get OUT OF CONTROL! And it’s time to make some new rules and better screen time guidelines.

My kids don’t watch TV but they do have iPads and my 14-year old has a phone. ALL COUNT as screen time.

Screen Time Rules and Guidelines for Kids and Families

Sp I’ve instituted a EARN your screen time plan for the summer. My kids get 1 minute of screen time for every 1 minute of reading, writing, math, or exercising. They keep track (on an honor system) with their stop watch apps. (But, I occasionally check to make sure they’re keeping track.)

our family's screen time policy

This is working for us mostly (it still seems excessive) but I’ve been researching what works for other parents and what experts recommend and thought I’d share it with you.

FALL 2016 UPDATE: My kids get zero screen time Monday – Friday and 2 hours on the weekend. This has been SO beneficial to seeing and talking with my 14 year old again who gets addicted (numbing out feelings?) to her device — Tumblr, Pinterest, texting, whatever it is. No screen time ROCKS! I feel like we’re having better family time, even better time in the car.

First, when you’re making your family screen time rules, consider:

  • age of your child
  • parental involvement (how much YOU need to do to enforce the guidelines)
  • the AAP’s guidelines for no more than 2 hours / day for kids ages 3 to 18
  • if you want to differentiate TV from video games

But you may need to also consider these more tricky things:

  • what about reading on the devices? (both daughters use the kindle app)
  • or writing? (one daughter has a blog)
  • homework on devices (with flipped classrooms especially)

Family Screen Time Plans — Which Will Work for You?

Screen Time Plan 1: Daily Screen Time Allotment 

We used to do this — and it was a good policy until recently. During school the kids were allowed 30 minutes a day of screen time.

However, this did get whacked out when someone was sick. Or when mom wasn’t paying attention. Or life just distracted . . .

The Best Screen Time Rules for Families
On the Mudpies and Makeup site, her kids get a weekly number of tech tickets, each worth 30 minutes,

Screen Time Plan 2: Earn Daily Screen Time Minutes

So this is what we’re doing with the 1 minute reading or exercise = 1 minute of screen time.

Other parents use screen time as a reward to be earned.

The Best Screen Time Rules for Families
These rules from Your Modern Family list what must happen before her kids get any screen time. I personally don’t care for this because I have one daughter wakes up slowly and life is just easier for everyone if she gets her screen time in first thing.

Screen Time Plan 3: Use an App to Control / Limit Wi-Fi Access

I haven’t wanted to do this because I really believe that it’s essential for my kids to learn to self-monitor and be honest. However, I get that they are kids who will make mistakes and they have less developed prefrontal cortexes. All that to say, this might be a good option for some families or for breaking bad habits in tech-addicted kids.

The Best Screen Time Rules and Guidelines for Kids and Families

OurPact. This app looks the most promising to me. You install it on each device and sync it all to your control device. Then you can monitor and turn access on or off.

Or try one of these 12 apps for controlling screen time on iGameMom.

Always Have Screen Time Rules!

What’s Allowed / Not Allowed

You’ll want to make sure your kids know what they can and can not watch, what websites are approved or not approved, what apps are approved or not approved, and that they always have to ask permission for new shows and any purchases.


Your kids need to know how to be safe online and to never give real names or birthdays or locations.

The Best Screen Time Rules and Guidelines for Kids and Families
Sunshine and Hurricanes has a nice printable about their family’s technology rules.

Go over this so your kids are reminded on a regular basis.


The Best Screen Time Rules and Guidelines for Kids and Families
Many parents require their kids to sign technology contracts, especially with phones. Here’s an (awesome) cell phone introductory letter, here’s a contract example and here’s another contract. Here is a general technology contract and here are several tech contracts split up by ages.

What screen time rules work for your family?

Too much screen time? Get back into control with these rules and guidelines for kids and families

family screen time rules

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  1. My son was not much of a reader. So initially we had 1 minute of reading = 1 minute screen time. But later, as he became a more proficient reader, the screen time was reduced to 2 minutes of reading = 1 minute screen time. This year, we have eliminated it completely and he gets 2 hours of screen time per week to play, but unlimited screen time for research work because we are a homeschooling family and my son does a lot of online lessons.

  2. My kids, ages 9 & 13, are allowed to do whatever screen things they’d like on weekends until 9:30am. They both almost always wake up around 7am. We started this years ago to get them to let us parents sleep in since they were early risers. Recently, we’ve also started allowing 30 minutes per weekday if they complete the list of chores I give them for the day. This has worked really well to motivate them to do their chores. The questionable screen time thing we’ve had is that our older son has gotten really into computer programming. I’ve been kind of at a loss of how to regulate the time he spends doing this. He is learning a lot and is very passionate about it so I want to encourage it, but I also want him to go outside and get exercise! Both kids read a ton, so we aren’t worried about getting them to read more.