How to Help Your Teen Limit Their Screen Time and Be More Engaged

Is your teen constantly glued to a screen?

Does your teen eat while scrolling through their phone? Have you ever found your teen watching a show when you thought they were getting ready to leave? I am sure I am not the only parent who continually tells their teens to put their phone down and to focus on what they are suppose to be doing. I am also sure that I am not alone when this comment is met with an eye roll and a sigh. Luckily, I have a plan that helps teens enjoy but limit but their screen time in a healthy way.

Certainly being on a screen can be great fun for your teen. I love hearing about my kids Snapchat streaks or walking in on my kids video chatting with friends. What I don’t love is when every lull in their day immediately elicits the phone coming out of their pocket. There is value in being bored that encourages teens to be creative and think of what they would like to do rather than just reading the same posts or watching yet another show. As parents, we have the opportunity to help our teens find a balance between fun and using a screen as an escape without the need to be a screen police all day long.

Pick Screen Free Times

A good place to start is to pick times of the day that your teen may not be on their screens

  • Before Breakfast
  • During Meals
  • While Doing Homework
  • Before 5:00 PM
  • After 10:30 PM
  • While Completing Chores

It doesn’t matter what time frame you decide to designate as a screen free time of the day. The important part is being consistent. By picking a specific time of day that your teen needs to be off a screen, then you only have to check in with them at that time. You created a clear boundary, and you don’t need to worry about it all day long which makes it so much easier to maintain.

Create New Healthy Habits

Your teen probably won’t be thrilled at first, but once they get in the habit of being off their screen, it will feel more natural, and they can begin to fill their free time with other activities. Encourage your teen to pick a couple new activities, depending on how much free time you have added to their day, to include in their day.

  • Playing Sports/Hiking/Going to the Gym/Biking
  • Volunteering
  • Coloring/Painting/Drawing/Photography
  • Journaling
  • Reading
  • Listening to Podcasts
  • Cooking
  • Chores
  • Join a New Class
  • Working
  • Puzzles/Crosswords
  • Singing/Musical Instrument
  • Building/Construction
  • Gardening
  • Caring for Animals

It doesn’t matter what your teen does when they are not on their screen, it just needs to be a different experience. Even if they don’t end up liking the new activity and decide to switch to something else, the important part is that they are collecting life experiences that will help them discover their true passion.

Take Time to Just Be

While it is great to try new things, being off a screen also teaches your teen how to enjoy silence and being alone with themselves and their thoughts. If your teen is always filling their time, then they are never giving their brain time to rest and process. It is in the quiet and stillness of their lives that your teen can discover new possibilities and begin to understand themselves a bit better. Encourage your teen to take at least one minute a day, close their eyes, and breathe in for the count of five, hold their breathe for the count of 5 and breathe out for the count of 7. Taking time to just be is a great healthy habit that helps teens feels more at ease and calm throughout their whole day.

While logging long hours on a screen is pretty typical behavior for teens, for some teens, it is keeping them stuck in the Chronic Stress Loop. Spending time on a screen is their default habit to soothe the stress in their life which can lead to unwanted manifestations like quitting activities, poor grades, or isolating themselves from family and friends. If this sounds like your teen, grab a copy of my Stress Less Guide here, and start helping your teen break out of the Chronic Stress Loop for good, so they can manage expectations better, experience more success, and be happy and healthy in school and beyond.


Originally published at www.claireketchum.com on June 26, 2017.