Supporting Children, Youth, and Families in Greater Vancouver since 1990

screen time for kids

Parenting Conflicts Over Screen Time for Kids

It’s common for parents to have differing views about screen time for kids.

One parent may see this as a harmless way to occupy their child while they attend to other things in their adult life. This can leave the other parent playing the “bad guy” when it comes to setting time limits on video game playing or limiting texting on cell phones.

One parent sees this as a benign past time while the other envisions a screen-addicted kid who neglects homework and retreats from family meal times and other activities. 

If you and your partner are divided on this issue, consider the following:

  • Adults set the example in the home for use of screens. If you work from home and have to spend hours on a screen remember that you will need to talk to your kids about how this choice is different for you– it provides income, pays for family vacations, and keeps food on the table. Try to keep your on screen office time separate from main family areas of the home.
  • Set and keep boundaries for yourself. This means you and your family members need to know when you’re online and offline in advance.  For those who struggle to structure their time, consider using some of the available time management apps, online planners or calendars that can alert you and your family members to know when you’re available and when you’re not. 
  • Set reasonable, age-appropriate limits for use of cell phones and computers in the home. 
  • Use reference points that your kids understand when setting limits – i.e. time on phones and video games comes after time spent on homework, meal time, or after a planned family outing.
  • Ask your child about their ideas for reasonable time on/off screens. This is appropriate for older children (between 8 and 12 or teens) who benefit from being invited into some problem solving and critical thinking about hazards of screen use, risks of overuse, and how to tell if their use is becoming a problem. 

If you’ve attempted some of the above recommendations and still find that conflict ensues in your home over screen time for kids, it may be time to consult a family or couples counsellor. It’s possible that other feelings (disconnection, resentment, fear) or beliefs about such things as personal freedom and family time are in conflict with other values that you and your spouse learned from your own upbringing. 

Couples in conflict over parenting issues like this often benefit from learning more productive means of broaching those difficult conversations and coping in healthier ways when they experience hard feelings or unmet expectations.