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I wanted to share this No Screentime Until Printable Sheet again today because it has been wonderful for our family over the years.  It teaches our children that there are more important things in life & screentime is the last resort.  It gives them other screen-free ideas to helps them get lost in those activities before they resort to screen time. 🙂   

When we first started limiting electronics for our kids, we created this free no-screentime sheet.  Within a few months, the kids were helping out more (thanks to giving them age-appropriate chores using these Chores for Screentime Cards).  Together, it was a match made in Heaven! 

No Screentime Until free printable chart

If you’ve seen your child on electronics too much, this combination of these two things (the no screentime until chart & the Swap Chores for Screen Time Cards) was how we started really limiting the time of our kids on electronics. 

We started this several years ago.  It was tough at first, but now, our kids are rarely on electronics.  Our efforts paid off and now the kids’ screentime is minimal.   It was the best decision, as our kids are happier, argue less, entertain themselves more and they don’t ask for electronics or say “I’m Bored” when they aren’t being entertained.

I didn’t want our kids to be sitting alone, playing on a device, wasting hours a day in a virtual world…  while the real world passes them by.

no screen time until other things are done first

I want our kids to BE KIDS.  I don’t want the kids’ phones or games to take that time away. When they are grown, I want them to think back fondly on their childhood and remember the happy, fun times that they had while they were playing together, hanging out with friends, or playing a board game with Mickey & I.   

While our kids might look back and remember their favorite day of the summer when they were playing ball outback as a family, they certainly won’t remember their best day of television. 

Parents Want to Limit Screen Time Among Kids:

Did you know that more than 70% of parents wish they could lessen their child’s screentime use?   It may be hard, but it is also an achievable goal (and it is worth the effort).  If you don’t want your kids to get sucked into screentime the second that they wake up… give them something else to do first.   That was the idea behind this free no screen-time sheet.   I wanted to prevent too much screentime use over the summer.

If you want to help your kids avoid non-stop screentime by finding an interest in something else first, this is a great way to do it.  Plus, you can save the ‘child electronic use’ for a time when you need it… like a long road trip!  They’ll be quiet the entire ride.   LOL! 

The main idea behind this is to give our kids something “else” to get “lost in.”  Sometimes kids just need a little motivation to get started (once our kids head outside to play, they forget about watching a movie or playing on the tablet).  If I let them just sit & default to screen-time, it will consume as much time as I allow.

I’d so much rather see them being creative and inventive.  I’d rather see them reading, drawing, experimenting, or playing.

A small child playing cars on the floor.

How Long Should a Child have Screen Time?

I have read study after study about the child – screentime issue.  It is real & it can become very serious.  A child addicted to screens is likely to happen when they have unlimited access to mobile phones/cell phones, video games, home theater systems, etc…   It has been known to cause health problems in children.   

According to Psychology Today: “In a new, groundbreaking study published in Preventive Medicine Reports, researchers at San Diego State University suggest that more than one hour per day of screen time for children ages two to seventeen is associated with lower psychological well-being.”

The incline of screen addiction and the decline of physical activity are leading to poor mental health for both older and younger kids. 

 “The most significant effects were found among 14- to 17-year-olds whose screen time usage was high, seven or more hours per day. These users were twice as likely to have been diagnosed with depression or anxiety or sought help for a psychological issue in the past year.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children younger than 2 avoid digital media other than video chatting.  They also suggest that children ages 2 to 5 should keep their television viewing (of high-quality children’s programs) to a maximum of one hour a day.    (Be sure not to let that one hour be in the evening.  The blue light from the screen can prevent your child from being able to fall asleep easily).

On a similar note, the World Health Organization suggests that infants under one-year-old should not be exposed to electronic screens at all.  They suggest that children between the ages of two to four should not have more than one hour of sedentary screen time daily.

Gone are the days of the family sharing a basic phone for phone calls.  Kids are now being entertained by hours of screen time.  Even infant and toddler toys have gone from large blocks and rings to electronic toys that make sounds and have bright lights. 

By elementary school, a child’s phone is often seen in their backpack (which I understand, because I think it’s a wonderful way to keep in touch with our children, but it is so important to remain in control of what is happening & when they are using it.)

A tip to control what our kids are doing on their screens: 

I do several things to filter and monitor what the kids are doing on their devices, but here are my favorite and most important keys to keeping them safe and monitored.

1– I use Bark (parental monitoring app) on every single device that they have. They know that I use it – it’s not a secret. 🙂 It’s easy to set up, easy to use, and it lets me monitor what they are doing. It blocks inappropriate things and it sends an alert to my phone if something suspicious (bullying, pornography, etc.) is happening on their device, via a website, text, photo, social media, or app. It’s inexpensive and the best parental control app for iPhone, iPod, iPad, or tablet that I’ve found.

 2– I have all of our phones set up to require a password before adding any new games or apps.  I set up that password, and they do not know it.  I never give our kids the password for anything.  If they want an app (free or not) to play a new game, they need to ask me & I will type in the password.   Everything goes through the parents.  

3– I set up the “Screen Time” option on their device. This allows me to have an extra layer of protection. I quickly set time-limits, communication limits, website restrictions, etc. This is also where I set up the rule that each app requires the password before it can be added. (if you have an apple device, this is found under General Settings). Set up a “Screen Time” code that you keep to yourself. You’ll enter that pin code anytime that you need to make changes.

Boring can be a Good Thing.

While many of these devices offer a fun new way to teach kids their letters & numbers, it is also setting them up to expect entertainment all of the time and instant gratification (even more so with everything happening so fast thanks to 4G LTE, etc..)   

Sometimes, it’s best NOT to entertain them.  I have seen that when a kid’s bored – they begin to use their imagination more, create more, write more, story-tell more, play more.

Our kids have more fun making forts out, creating boats, and riding bikes than they would have on any of the electronic games out there.

However, it is easy for them to forget because electronics can grab their attention so quickly. 

Sometimes children (and even adults) simply need a little reminder that these other things are more fun.  

How to Limit Screentime for Children:

  1. Use this No Screentime Until free printable  (Click here and I will send you this chart via email)   This is a great way to encourage them to run around outside, play on the swingset, play a board game, paint, draw, build or do something ELSE first.  Get them involved in another activity before you say yes to screens.
A screenshot of text

I am very honest with our kids about screen time and electronic use.  I tell them how it can make them feel anxious, upset, grumpy, and just not as happy.  I talk about being sedentary vs. physically active. 

I just tell them the scary truth about electronic use and I lay it all on the table.   It has definitely worked because about a month ago when we were going on a 4-hour car trip, our son said: “Mom, I know that being on electronics isn’t good for our brains or our bodies, but can we all download a new car-racing game to play on the way to the beach?”

Our family (immediate & extended) vacations are electronic-free zones except for one TV that they can watch together.  They have to agree on a show, etc… (they usually pick a cooking challenge & they each wait for all of the siblings to be present before they push play since they are all on the same episode.)   

It’s great to watch them bonding, laughing & talking about the latest show, episode, or challenge on the show that they are watching.

Individual devices can easily pull siblings (and friends) away from each other, as they play separate games in separate rooms, but designating one room/tv as the one that they can watch actually does the opposite for our kids.  They are working together, talking about the same thing, etc…  so I don’t mind it at all.

Use these Swap Chores for Screen Time cards.  They work SO well!!  Be consistent for three days & you will see a huge change.  Trust me!
It’s also a great alternative to a chore chart, which I despise.  They are more work for me than for the kids!   

These cards to ‘earn screen time’ is so easy to use with your children! They do their age-appropriate chores: sweep the floors, dust, clean up the living room, etc…  and they are rewarded with some downtime.

Cards to swap chores for screen time by yourmodernfamily

I love that the Swap Chores for Screen Time Cards are easy to use. It is a very simple system.  I can say: “Ok everyone – go grab 2 chore cards and then you are done and you can go play or you can use your earned time.”   

Each chore card has the number of screentime minutes in the top corner.  The SWAP CHORES FOR SCREENTIME set also comes with blank cards.  You can write things, on the blank cards that come with the set, to encourage your child to play, practice an instrument, etc…
Example:  “Play the piano for 20 minutes.”  It is a win-win.  While it’s not really a chore, it is a great way to engage their mind & body. 

Be a good role model.  Your child is looking to you to see what is acceptable.   Limit your screentime, as well.  This is hard for me, as my job IS online, but I just work while they are at school (or when they are asleep, like right now). 🙂

Have a technology-free week every once in a while.  To be honest, the kids had a hard time at first, but by the end, we all loved it (and the kids weren’t fighting or arguing anymore!) You could even try having screentime only on the weekends, or only at specific times of the day.

Free Screen Time Checklist

This free No Screen Time Until Checklist is yours to print, display, and reuse. It is the perfect way to transition into summer, a holiday break, or just everyday life if you want to limit your child’s screen time.

I’ll send you two free printables (different) because I find that we all work differently, so pick the one that works for your family & get started.

No Screentime Until

No Screen Time Until You have…

  • You have read for 20 minutes.   
    They can read it alone or with someone- I love to read with them.   The point is that they are reading. This is so important.

    When you let them jump into the story, I can almost guarantee that they will be reading for much more than twenty minutes.  Our kids all end up reading longer than 20 minutes because they want to see what is going to happen next in their book.
  • You have written your paragraph of the day.
    Every summer, each child gets a new writing journal and they write a paragraph each day.  (Depending on the age, younger children could just write a few sentences or even practice writing Kindergarten sight words).  I check it and date it.  At the end of the summer, we look back on their progress together and we all love to see how far they have come! 
  • You have finished your math problem of the day.
    They also get a math problem or math sheet of the day (I usually just print one from the internet, or we use some of my old math workbooks from when I taught elementary school). The reason?  Children lose an average of 3 months of learning during the summer.  I don’t want our children to “lose” time… I want them to “gain” it, so we do a little work in the summer, too.  It makes going back to school so much easier, too!
  • You have checked your room to be sure it is clean (the bed is made, lights are off, the fan is off, clothes are cleaned up, papers are off the floor, etc.)- this is simply because we are all part of the family and we all do our part to help out around the house.
  • You have done one of the following:  Played with toys, played with your siblings, played outside, practiced your instrument, built something, crafted, drew, painted, made something with our DIY creativity kit, or whatever else you’ve found, that you can do that is creative for 30 minutes or more. (Usually, they get carried away and this 30-minutes-of-creativity lasts much longer ♥).
  • You have finished at least one of your everyday responsibilities/chores.  (ex: make the bed, put your clothes away).
  • I’ve also started having our children write something nice in another sibling’s journal.

    I have a second no-screentime until printable that I will send you, as well.   
    If you would like both (free) No Screen Time Until Printables, click here.  I will email them to you.No Screentime Until

    I hope this was helpful & gives you a great start into a new future! 🙂   Enjoy!

The Next Step

If you are ready to take it a step further, try these Swap Chores for Screen Time Cards. These cards help you eliminate the constant reminding, nagging, and yelling about chores. The cards eliminate the constant conversations with your children about reducing screentime.

Your kids will be offering to do chores & only using their devices for the allotted time. Help them get off of their electronics by using these Swap Chores for ScreenTime Cards. They work in just a few days if you are consistent. Your kids will be asking you if they can help you out!

chores for screentime cards

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Hi there!

I’m Becky, a former elementary school teacher turned certified child development therapist and blogger. I work at home with my husband and together we are raising (and partially homeschooling) our four children in the Carolinas. I love diet coke, ice cream, and spending time with my family.

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  1. Hello My name is Tea and I am doing a project about screen time and I want your opinion on screentime.

  2. Can you tell me more about your paragraph a day? Do you have a list of prompts, or is it more of a journal of what they have been up to?

    1. I usually let them write whatever they want (more of a journal) , but you could always write a question for them. 🙂

  3. This is for the summertime right? What rules do u have for during the school year.

  4. Oh my gosh, have you seen Kudoso yet? You’d think we read your blog and then built the perfect app to implement it 😂 Seriously though, Kudoso would be perfect for you Becky, we’d love to give it to you because there is obviously no better match than you and your household. Seriously… you have to check it out. Not only perfect for phones and tablets but for televisions and game consoles too!

  5. It a brilliant idea. Thank you for sharing.
    Lisa Wehner

  6. My mother also created a rule for me once I was so little. That rule was “I can drink one glass of soda AFTER I drink a glass of milk”. Well, I’m not that tall, but right now I’m very healthy.

  7. Hey!I just wanted to let you know I mentioned this post in one of my blog posts because I used the coffee lover tin idea last year. Here is a direct link to the post if you would like to check it out

  8. This is great. How or when would you use this instead of OR with the chore cards?

    1. The cards have times on them, so when you want to reward chores with screen time, you can let them add up their cards and exchange them for time on their devices!