How to help your kids balance screen time

A child holding a tablet in one hand and wellies in another to illustrate how to balance screen time.

Limiting screen time is a big challenge for today’s parents. This is easier said than done though. According to new research by Persil, children spend two years and three months in front of screens by the age of seven.

Even more alarmingly, the study of British and Irish parents found that time spent on screens is more than double of that playing outdoors.

The trouble is, tablets and smartphones are so convenient. Indeed, 79% admitted finding them helpful, while 77% said that they allow children to use them while they carry out tasks.

However, parents are clearly aware of the flipsides. A huge 77% worry that it could affect how they engage with other children.

Meanwhile, 61% felt it can negatively impact creative thinking and 66% were concerned about their kids’ psychological development.

I sympathise with all of this. And while I’m pretty confident my kids haven’t had as much screen time as that, I have to admit that they get more than enough.

Luckily, help is at hand. The people at Persil have recognised the importance of outdoor play via its Dirt is Good campaign for over a decade.

They’ve joined forces with human development expert Sir Ken Robinson to offer advice on balancing screen time.

Sir Ken suggests that parents should set agreed limits on screen time, and times when screens are put away altogether in favour of other activities. These include mealtimes and play and recreation of other sorts depending on the age of the children.

Limit screen time in an engaging way

Kids love reward charts and stickers, so why not limit and allocate screen time with one? Also, plan regular outdoor activities for them – particularly when school’s out for half term. After all, they’ll be missing out on running around in the playground.

Reducing screen time in this way should help them to see the change in routine as both positive and rewarding.

Family fun

Doing things as a family always sends a good message to kids, so find things they enjoy and join in. This could be making things out of outdoor finds like leaves and sticks or creating a kid-friendly treasure hunt.

It’s a lovely way of spending time together and, as well as encouraging creativity, it’s good for reducing stress and anxiety.

Siblings on a country walk.

Get outside, whatever the weather

We’ve been spoilt with decent weather recently, but it’s important to embrace it when it inevitably turns too! Children love jumping in puddles and getting muddy so we must let them. It washes out, after all.

Keep the wellies and waterproofs to hand for outdoor adventures. While we haven’t had rain, we’ve managed a few outings out during half term and the kids really enjoyed them.

Encourage ‘real play’

Encouraging ‘real play’ can also help. In its truest form, it’s unsupervised and self-initiated. So all you have to do is make sure there are ample opportunities in your kids’ environment. As far as I’m concerned, it’s also a great excuse for not being overly tidy!

Leave toys, drawing materials and so on where your kids can find them and let them do their own thing. Play like this is so important as there are so many benefits to it. Children gain so much in terms of their emotional, cognitive, and physical development.

It doesn’t have to cost a fortune

The great news is that dodging screen time doesn’t have to cost much at all. It’s who you’re spending time with rather than what you’re doing that matters.

This half term, for example, we’ve been for nature walks, done some baking and visited the playground. None of this cost a thing and, more importantly, we spent lots of time together as a family.

What do you do to reduce your kids’ screen time?

Disclosure: this is a collaborative post


  1. Nige

    This is such a difficult balance, but for all of that the girls would rather go outside to play and yes usually get very dirty. It’s our half term next week and I already have planned some outdoor activities. Nothing beats fresh air. Fab read and great campaign

  2. The Autism Dada

    This is such a big thing at the moment. Seems that many kids today enjoy screentime too much. Personally, I find it difficult as there was no such thing as a computer in my home when I was my daughter’s age – back in 1979 (such a long time ago 🙂 )

    So, then it was all about playing out in front of the house whereas today its all about watching Roblox on YouTube.

    We try to get them out and about as much as possible to pull them away from the screen – which sometimes they enjoy. I can imagine though that it will only get worse as we go forward with technology becoming more integrated into our every day lives.

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