How much is too much and who decides?

I am talking about screen-time here but maybe it really should be called scream-time?

It certainly is an issue that can raise the temperature even in the most peaceful household. For a lot of families it is a hotly contested issue where parents daily have to lay down the law and constantly shore up the barriers.

  • Are you feeling under siege by the demands for screen-time?
  • Are you losing the battle?
  • Do you feel like giving up on having any rules about it altogether?

In this blog you will discover the good, the bad and the ugly of screens and find the best way to navigate and negotiate screen time to avoid daily conflicts.


Most parents I speak to worry about the amount of time their child spends in front of a screen. Without wanting to gender stereotype, it seems that:

  • Most parents of boys worry about the amount of time their son spends on the Xbox and the effect of violent games on their psychological development
  • Most parents of girls worry about the effect of social media on their daughters’ self-esteem as well as the amount of time spent on the phone

In my practice I have seen several cases of spectacular, even violent, tantrums when parents have tightened up the rules around screen-time. Usually this has been when parents have realised a little late that the screen has taken over and they have lost control

So the sooner boundaries are established the less ‘kick back’ you will get.

There is a fair amount of research into the effects of spending time in front of a screen and I am about to eat my own words as those who have been on my ‘Parenting an anxious child or teen’ workshop will notice. I have, until now, claimed that the epidemic levels of anxiety cannot be blamed on the digital revolution. Whilst it still can’t entirely, a large proportion of ongoing angst and anxiety does seem to stem from our addiction to screens, or perhaps rather from our inability to limit our exposure.

Whilst investigating this issue I have found plenty of research to suggest that excess screen use damages us physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

  • Physically it affects your posture and causes hunched shoulders that set you up for back problems. Body workers talk of “iPad neck”!
  • Mentally your ability to focus on longer, denser texts (like books!) is impaired
  • Emotionally your ability to empathise is stunted. Your posture when hunched over and looking down is that of a depressed person. Your body mimics your posture and releases hormones accordingly.
  • Spiritually you miss out because you are not looking up and out, so you miss all the smiles and miracles around you. A virtual community can’t replace real life interaction.

Being online is a highly addictive activity by design.  You have to be very aware and conscious not to get drawn in by the manipulative marketing employed by the tech giants.

Children and young people simply are not mature or aware enough to make the call about what is enough. They are being exploited by advertisers and platforms and you, as parents, have to make the decision for them and limit their time online.


Although the good old telly now seems positively benign with everybody and aunt Ethel watching the same thing in the cosy blue glow of BBC, I remember daily battles about it when my children were young.

It seemed that the television was always switched on and when I tried to put my foot down and have some rules about it I was met with howls of protests.

One of these was that none of their friends had any rules about TV, so I conducted a little survey at the local youth club about how other families managed this.


What was interesting was the variety of ways parents addressed the issue.

  • no telly before homework completed
  • only telly in the afternoon
  • if telly in afternoon then none after evening meal
  • no morning telly
  • no telly in bedroom
  • only telly every other day
  • 2 hours only but you choose when

All parents have to find their own way around screen-time as it is most definitely here to stay. You have to find a balance that works for your family, but do learn from me:

Don’t believe what they say about their friends’ screen allowance!

Here are some options used by families I work with:

  • You are allowed 1 hour per day but you can earn extra screen-time by good behaviour/doing chores/kindnesses
  • All devices are deposited in a basket before meals/after school/before going to bed/during homework hour
  • 1 hour after school and 1 hour after evening meal
  • At the weekend trade online time with participating in a non-digital whole family activity like walking/cooking/board-games

And a word to the wise: put all the protection and parental controls you can on all their and your devices.

Take this very seriously and if you are technically challenged get help – but not from your child!


What works in your family regarding screen time? Any horror stories to share? How much time is enough or too much? What are the upsides of screen time for you? For your child? Leave a comment below and share your parental wisdom.


expert help on setting the screen time boundaries and how to handle the conflicts around it? I have a limited number of free WayForward Consultations available each month that you can book right here


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