It used to be a teenage problem: kids who were obsessed with screens. But since the pandemic started, we are hearing from parents that kids as young as 2 are begging for more and more screen time and having massive meltdowns that are scary to witness if you say no.

There are so many reasons why you should limit your kids screen time, they could fill a book (and probably have). Across the western world, obesity is on the rise, mental health correlations between depression, anxiety and amount of screen time are strong. Optometrists are seeing a pandemic of short-sightedness in children. Physios and chiros are seeing postural issues arise in young children. Teachers are pulling their hair out trying to engage over-stimulated kids. And experienced PE teachers are horrified at the lack of physical capability of some kids who can’t do the most basic gross motor skills such as throw or catch a ball, jump a skipping rope, or run more than 20 meters.

The good news is, no matter how bad those screen time habits have become, they can be paired back. The human body and brain are incredibly flexible, and it is never too late to start encouraging a healthier life-tech balance.

So, where to start? Make a time to sit down with your kids and have a heart-to-heart chat to them. Tell them that it’s time to start new routines around their screen time so that they have a better balance. If you’re really brave, a complete week of detox from screens could be an option. It’s hard for the first couple of days but then you won’t recognise your kids! For most people, however, a gradual approach works really well.

Before we go any further, know this. When having these conversations with your kids, it is critical that you involve the kids in the discussion and that you listen to their objections and ideas. They are much more likely to co-operate if you incorporate their suggestions. Be prepared to compromise. 

So, what does “better balance” even mean?

Non-screen-activities that all kids should be doing every day fall into the following categories:

Physical Activity a healthy amount of physical activity (minimum 1 hour per day active time including some time outside), such as kicking a ball around, riding a scooter or bike, swimming, skipping.

Creative Pursuits such as Lego, writing, playing an instrument, role playing, drawing, dress-ups.

Helping Around The House, age-appropriate chores, and responsibilities so kids are contributing to the running of the home.

Family time, such as having dinner together.

Brainstorm activities that come under each category and write everything down to stick up on your fridge so that when their screen time is up, they won’t be constantly nagging you because they don’t know what to do with themselves.



Children Aged 2-8 Years Old Children Aged 8-12 Years Old
Jump on the trampoline Go for a bike ride
Dance to their favourite 3 songs Go rollerblading or skateboarding
Play outside with toys or sandpit Practice a sport
Play with a big ball Walk to school
Listen to an audiobook for 15 mins Walk the dog
Read or look through a picture book Listen to an audiobook or podcast
Play a musical instrument Read a book or magazine
Drawing or painting Play a musical instrument
Play a board or card game Play a board game
Jigsaw puzzle Do homework
Dress ups Dancing and singing
Blocks or Lego Bake cupcakes
Water play Play with a younger sibling
Singing nursery rhymes Jigsaw puzzle
Play-Doh Arts and crafts
Play with pets Play with a friend


Next, come up with a routine that you can stick to. Again, ask for their input. What time should screens be put away at night? See what they suggest – you might be surprised! Then write it down.

Here’s what your routines might look like:

  • No screens after 8pm.
  • Sunday morning before 2pm, family time, no screens.
  • On any given day, 1 hour of screen time and then 1 hour of non-screen activity before they can go back on.
  • No screens at the dinner table.


Ask your kids for ideas about how to manage this, write it down and get them to sign it. Then offer a reward at the end of 2 weeks for sticking to this – a family movie or other outing, a new game they want, whatever you think would be a great incentive.



Stephanie Kakris

Stephanie Kakris has a Masters in Psychology and is a published parenting author. She is the co-founder of ScreenCoach, a combined hardware and software platform where kids are allocated a set amount of screen time, and after their time is up, they need to go and complete activities such as exercise, chores, or non-screen play to earn more time before they can resume. ScreenCoach is launching early 2022 Find out more at