Best Practices For
Managing Screen Time

Dear Friends,

We’ve been surprised by how many issues arise when mobile devices become a daily part of family life—we’ve had many stumbles and fumbles. Having dealt with nearly every scenario from kids who sneak iPads in the middle of the night to unwanted FaceTime callers, we hope you can benefit from our lessons learned.

‘Parenting Technology’ is a big job and requires an investment of your time. Here, with input from Our Friends, we’ve compiled our best practices for managing screen-time with the hope of shortcutting it for you. Our goal is to make life with screens easier for both parents and children by matching you with the best resources and showing you how to use them.  We are to help!

We’re here to help at any point–you can just text us at: 8HIFAFGOTU!

With best wishes,

Julie Paul




#1  Create Good Alternatives

Today we find ourselves ‘parenting technology,’ and the first stop on this screen time management journey is making sure your kids have good alternatives. When ‘boredom’ strikes, kids inevitably gravitate toward screens. Here are our best ideas for creating good alternatives:

  • Get Your Kids Excited about Their Free Time. What would they like to do more of and how can you encourage them?
  • Make Your Home a Destination for Fun
    • Do a Toy Refresh – clear out the playroom and toy baskets to make room. ADD child icon
    • Create an area for teens to hang out with non-screen entertainment options ADD teen icon
  • Connect through Experiences – Where would they like to go, what would they like to do and who would like to do it with?
    • Get their help in planning a family outing or trip.
    • Starting in Middle School, there are some great options for volunteering together. ADD teen icon
  • Be Social
    • Who would they like to have play dates with? Keep a running list on your phone. ADD child icon
    • Be prepared to support your teens social social life by opening up your home, offering your driving services and planning/funding some of the fun ADD teen icon
  • Have Your Child Make an “I’m Bored” List of things to do when that feeling hits. Keep it on your phone, and next time, you’ll both be prepared.  ADD child icon
  • Encourage Them to Plan Ahead–what will they do to keep themselves entertained at a restaurant, a doctor’s office or on a road trip?
  • Consider a Dog – really, your entire family will get outside more!

If your kids seem too into their devices, remember to consider: “What’s the alternative?” Encourage them to take charge of their free time!  LINK to our Free Time Calculator


#2  Lay The Ground Rules

Most parents would agree that screen time is a privilege rather than a right, but how this plays out in actuality varies greatly from family to family. Based on parenting preferences and family values, parents set expectations around:

Access: Where and when screen time is permissible and whether children must formally earn it or adhere to certain expectations.

Appropriateness: What online activities children may engage in, what games they’re allowed to play, what they’re allowed to watch, and which (if any) social media platforms are permitted.  

Etiquette: How they’re expected to behave online and interact with others.  

-Accountability: How they’re expected to care for devices, and who’s accountable for lost, stolen, damaged or malfunctioning devices

Privacy: Decide whether you’ll be monitoring online activity and tracking your kid’s devices. \ HOVER: 67% of parents believe that their children’s online safety is more important than they’re privacy. 

Ownership: Decide whether you’re comfortable with your child ‘owning’ a device or set the expectation that the device belongs to and is on loan from the family

Determining the answers to these questions may take some trial and error, but ultimately having a strong set of guidelines for screen time and media use sets the tone and can help you to regain control if it’s become an issue. Communicating these expectations via a Family Agreement will save you many future headaches, and is a fundamental first step in establishing a peaceful household.


#3  Take Control with these Parental Controls

When you’re ready to give your child a smartphone, remember that you are in the driver’s seat. Every app your child accesses is your ultimately your choice. Apple makes it easy to strip a phone down to its basic components–you can literally turn every single app and feature off except for calling. And, in one swipe, you can block your child from downloading additional apps. You can also easily set time limits.

Beyond the Family Agreement, there are 4 steps you should take to get your child started on a good path:

  1. Protect your children from viewing explicit content–you must act to override Apple’s existing default settings that allow Explicit Content
  2. Consider when and how your child will have access by setting schedules and determining what functionality you’ll allow on each device
  3. Make sure you’re familiar with the features of any app before you give your child access, particularly when it comes to social media and popular gaming apps.    
  4. Invest a little time in learning about Apple’s Screen Time features (for iOS 12)

Younger Icon: Parents of younger children, take the shortcut and use Guided Access. It locks any device to one app, and you can set time limits.

HIFAF Recommendation: For younger kids in particular, we’ve found it useful to limit the phone for communication purposes and the iPad for  watching or playing games. This imposed separation makes it easy to monitor activity with a glance and may help to teach self-regulation over the long run, as they associate each device as having particular limits.  


#4  Be Sure to Check All The Boxes

‘Parenting Technology’ can feel like a labyrinthine maze with an overwhelming number of twists and turns. Unfortunately, Apple’s parental controls are just the starting point, and they have several major limitations. While you can block explicit content for web-browsing on Safari, your child is not still not protected from a lot of inappropriate content that he or she may discover when surfing. For that, you’ll need a more robust content filtering solution.  

And Apple’s iOS restrictions do not govern computers or the major content providers.  So after setting controls on the computer, you’ll want to set them for YouTube INFORMATION (YouTube says expressly that it’s intended for users 17+, but it’s tricky for parents. While there is a lot of questionable content, there’s tons of educational videos too. Be sure to set Restricted Mode and monitor your child. )  And Netflix if your child is watching there too.

If your child is playing video games, then you’ll want to restrict what kinds of games they can access, and then of course, your kids might be watching good old-fashioned TV, so installing parental controls through your cable provider is a good idea too.  


#5  Have Frequent Conversations with Your Child

It’s amazing how much more effective a conversation can be if you share your reasoning as opposed to just saying no.

  • Discuss with your child all the reasons why you don’t give them endless screen time including that:
    • It’s designed to be addictive and feeds the need for instant gratification
    • It’s unclear what the impact is on developing brains–the numerous distractions can lead to inability to focus
    • It can interfere with their ability to fall asleep
    • There are only 24 hours in a day, so more screen time equals less time for other fun activities
  • Use Apple Screen Time (iOS 12) to help them be aware of their usage and how they’re spending their time online
  • Monitor together how often conflict arises over screen time and work together on new strategies if it’s an issue

Often kids just want to go off into their own little world with their iDevices, but screen time can be a social and connecting experience for families. So make it fun, make it family time! While some parenting experts might say, meet your kids where their interests lie, it’s really most fun to watch something you can all enjoy together. Build a content library for a variety of occasions (Common Sense Media is a great resource), and you’ll never burn precious time scrambling to find something to watch.


While ‘parenting technology’ can feel endless and exhausting, we can help you to navigate your way through. ROADMAP icon. Once we’ve helped you to complete the major steps and check all the boxes, you’ll feel more confident in how your kids are spending their time online.  


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