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Small, Realistic Steps to Trimming Back Your Family’s Screen Time

Screen time.

Are there two words that can induce more feelings of guilt in a mom?

I think we all want to reduce our family’s time spent in front of the TV, iPad, or phone, but it can feel overwhelming to actually make a change. After all, screens are everywhere, and they are an easy choice.

As moms, we’re tired, pulled in a million directions, and sometimes we just want 22 minutes of peace and quiet while Daniel Tiger sings in the background.

Small, Realistic Steps to Trimming Back Your Family's Screen Time

Can I just say, the struggle is real? 

But there’s something in me that keeps wanting to fight the good fight when it comes to my kids’ childhood. Rachel Stafford, author of the Hands-Free Mama blog, puts into words what I think so many of us feel.

“I want to make memories, not to-do lists…I want to get lost in conversation with my favorite people, not consumed in a sea of unimportant emails…I want the noise of my life to be a mixture of laughter & gratitude, not the intrusive buzz of mobile phones & text messages. I’m letting go of distraction, perfection, & pressure to grasp what really matters.”

So, how do we get from here to there?

I’ve put together a realistic list of a “baby steps” to reducing screen time in your home. I have done or am currently doing every single thing on this list, and they really help!

My hope is that you’ll take on just one or two steps at a time…slow, imperfect progress! 

Little by little, we can change our habits and reclaim our kids’ childhoods from blue screens to experiencing life in living color.

Baby Steps for You

1. Write down 3-5 things you want to be remembered for as a mom by your kids when they’re grown. Here are some examples:

  • “My mom always looked me in the eye and made me feel like I was the most important person in the world when we talked.”
  • “Her face lit up when I walked into the room.”
  • “My mom could make almost anything feel fun.”

Let your long-term picture of the mom you want to be guide your short-term everyday decisions.

2. Print your personal mom goals off and post them somewhere you’ll see them frequently

3. Turn off all notifications on your phone except for text, calendar reminders, and phone calls. Other notifications are nothing but distractions that throw your day off course. Don’t let pings and beeps rule you.

4. Designate a phone drop zone for when you’re home. Choose a place that’s out of your normal path, whether it’s in your bedroom, the laundry room, in a bin by the door. If you’re really concerned about missing calls, consider buying a BlueTooth phone set that your smart phone automatically connects to when you’re at home. That way, more than one phone will ring when you get a call.

5. Delete that app. You know, the one you waste a TON of time on. In a couple weeks, you’ll be so glad you did.

6. Commit to leaving your phone in the car when you head into the doctor or dentist’s office. This is a fantastic opportunity for focused time with your kids. They will absolutely blossom after 10-15 minutes of your undivided attention. Some office waiting ideas include:

  • 20 Questions (Person, place or thing)
  • I Spy (around the office or looking through a magazine)
  • Read a book aloud (even to kids who can already read)

Baby Steps for the Family

1. Hold a family meeting.

As a team, brainstorm ideas for reducing family screen time. Cast a vision for your kids of what family time could look like. Make a list of screen-free activities you’d like to do as a family. With everyone’s input, set some realistic boundaries on screen time. Plan a family reward for when you reach a screen-time goal.

2. Print off your idea list, agreed upon boundaries, and reward goal and post them prominently on the fridge.

3. Determine screen-free zones. The kitchen table and bedrooms are great places to keep screen-free. What’s the best place for your family?

4. Set a curfew for screens. The Mayo Clinic recommends turning off screens at least one hour before bedtime.

5. Keep screens out of sight, out of mind. To reduce screen time, it’s helpful to tuck tablets and phones in an out-of-sight location. We even ended up moving our TV to a low-traffic room. The less my kids walk by a screen, the less they’re tempted by its appeal. Since moving our TV, it’s been amazing how much less my kids ask about watching it.  

6. Spend one day totally screen free. We try to set at least one Sunday a month as totally screen free, and it’s a great way to rest and prepare for our upcoming week. Lasso The Moon has some alternate activity ideas I really love.

7. Participate in Screen-Free Week from April 30 – May 6th. Don’t know what to do? Here are some screen-free ideas.

My challenge to you?

Accomplish just one item on the list today. Taking the first step to reducing screen time can feel hard, but I can personally tell you it is so, so rewarding. 

Let’s stop letting technology raise our children – your kids already have an incredible mom to do that job. 


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