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Cheat sheet: How to limit your kid’s screen time

child on ipad with screen time limit reached

The effects of screen time on kid’s eyes

Do you find your kid is often glued to their phone, tablet or other device? Too much screen time may cause eye strain and irritability. It may even make kids more likely to develop myopia, also known as nearsightedness. 

Limiting your child’s screen time can help them find a healthy balance and protect their young eyes.

If you find that easier said than done, lean on this handy cheat sheet of ways to limit kids’ screen time on everything from Snapchat to Xbox One.

Limiting screen time for kids: why it matters

So, why not let your child binge their favorite YouTube channel, play Toca Life for hours or send Snapchat messages to their friends all day? 

Parents whose children spend more than two hours a day in front of a screen report that their children have more concerning issues. These issues include headaches, shoulder pain, eye strain, dry eyes, eye irritation and behavior issues. 

Increases in screen time has also been linked to increasing rates of myopia in children.

Want to head off these problems? Try limiting screen time according to the age of the child and establishing family rules. Talk with your kids about screen time, set and enforce reasonable limits, and swap time spent in front of devices for other activities.

Turn on Screen Time on your kid’s iPhone

Looking for some extra help limiting screen time on an iPhone, iPad or other Apple device? Use the Screen Time feature to monitor and limit how much time your kid is spending on their phone or other Apple device. 

To start using Screen Time, simply open the settings, turn on Screen Time and start checking the weekly reports. 

You can use these reports as a way to start talking to your kids about their screen time. Getting their buy-in may help you to keep harmony in the family and teach a lesson on the importance of balance.

Use iPhone parental controls to set limits on app use

Does your kid spend hours on a certain app, like TikTok or YouTube? You can use Screen Time to do more than check your kids’ weekly screen time statistics. 

Use Screen Time to set limits on apps. You can limit all app use, limit app use by category or even limit use of a specific app to certain days and times. 

If you’re wondering how to limit screen time on Snapchat or Instagram, this is an easy method.

Set up Downtime on your kid’s iPhone or iPad

The Downtime feature in Screen Time offers another helpful way to give your kid a break from screens. It lets you set aside “screen free” time. You could use this feature to carve out time for your child to practice a musical instrument, read a book or wind down before bed. 

You can also make exceptions for specific apps, such as Audible or the Music app that your child may want to use during their no-screen time. This feature can help get your kid into a healthy routine and find balance between screen and non-screen activities.

Set up Digital Wellbeing on your kid’s Android

If you or your child has an Android rather than an iPhone, how do you limit screen time on an Android? Use the Digital Wellbeing feature to manage how much time your child spends on their phone. 

Digital Wellbeing offers a tool, Family Link, that lets you manage apps and app purchases, set screen time limits, add a device “bedtime” and even lock your child’s Android remotely.

Get your kids to limit their own screen time

Do you have older kids or want to move past parental controls? Talk with them about the pros and cons of screen time and help them set their own screen time limits. Walk them through the use of Screen Time or Digital Wellbeing, ask them to check their usage and talk about which tools might help them meet healthy goals. 

Common Sense Media is a nonprofit that helps parents and teachers use media and technology with kids in healthy ways. They recommend creating a family plan for screen time and screen-free time to promote balance and wellbeing.

Easily set a time limit on YouTube

With endless content on YouTube, kids may have a hard time stepping away. One video can lead to another and another with no end in sight. Many a parent has found themselves wondering how to limit screen time on YouTube. 

Just use the built-in parental controls on YouTube Kids to create your parent profile, block content you don’t want your kid to see and set a timer to limit their YouTube time. When your child’s YouTube time is up, a timer will sound, and the app will stop working. 

Consider parental control software to limit screen time on Snapchat and other apps

If it seems your kid is on Snapchat constantly, there are several ways to limit screen time for kids on Snapchat. You can use the parental controls on Androids or iPhones to block or set time limits on the app. 

If you’d like even more control, consider getting parental control software such as Qustodio or Kaspersky Safe Kids, two of PCMag’s top picks for 2021. This software allows you to block Snapchat or other specific apps, set screen time quotas, and monitor your child’s online activity across multiple devices.

Set time limits on your Xbox console

If your kid is a gamer, you’re probably wondering how to set time limits on an Xbox. The good news is, you can put screen time limits in place directly on your Xbox console. 

When your child signs into their account to play, the timer immediately starts counting down. When their Xbox time is up, they can’t play anymore unless you log into your account to add more time.

Swap in educational screen time for your kids

Screen time is screen time when it comes to the eyes. But also consider encouraging your kids to trade some of their allotted screen time spent on games or social media for fun, enriching educational apps. 

Common Sense Media suggests looking for apps or other media that foster creativity, connection to the subject and critical thinking.

Make space for real world activities

Make regular plans with your kid or the whole family to schedule activities that don’t involve screens. Take a walk or hike together, go on a day trip and play tourist in your own area. You can start a garden, take a class, go camping … the possibilities are endless. 

Participating in outdoor activities may even help reduce the risk of myopia by giving your kids’ eyes a break from up-close activities.

If you use the tools mentioned on this cheat sheet, you should be able to help your kids develop balance and healthy habits around screen time. At the same time, you’ll also be protecting their eyes from eye strain and other issues linked to excess screen time.

No matter how much effort you make to limit screen time for your kids, they could still develop myopia. In fact, myopia is a common condition that’s becoming even more prevalent. So make regular eye doctor appointments to monitor your child’s eyesight and get their vision corrected if necessary.


How screens affect kids' eyes and what you can do about it

Screen time recommendations by age

Is too much screen time bad for kids?

Advantages of a 24-hour digital detox for kids

How to help children avoid computer vision syndrome

How much screen time is okay for my child? Infographic: How screen time affects kids

What are the effects of too much screen time?

iPhone user guide. Apple. Accessed November 2021.

4 parent-tested systems you can use to limit screen time. Today’s Parent. June 2019.

The best parental control software for 2021. PCMag. August 2021.

Are some types of screen time better than others? Common Sense Media. Accessed November 2021.

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