You can get your kids’ screen habits under control

Short-term pain means long-term gain

You can get your kids screen habits under control

If you worry that your kids have been “ruined” by an increase in their screen time since Covid, you are not alone. Dana Avidan Cohn was such a parent, but she’s brought her screen-addicted sons back from the brink. Writing for, she details what it took, and shares how everyone, needless to say, is happier for it.

As we move further away from “the time before,” perspectives have changed on many things, especially screen time for the kids. Cohn notes this distinctive trajectory. Like her, prior to Covid-19, my friends and I – with children ranging in age from toddlerhood to young adulthood – fretted about how much time the children spent (and, let’s be honest, how much time we spent) in front of screens. We expended significant effort – not always successfully, but we tried – getting the youngsters outside, among friends, running around like we did in our childhoods, when “screen time” was just sitcoms and, for some of us, MTV.

Then, of course, Covid-19 hit, and screens became the only way for kids to go to school, and safely hang out and play with their peers. Like a lot of parents, Cohn threw her hands up, and let things slide in a big way, eventually giving her two sons practically unlimited screen time. She had work to do herself and needed to care for a two-year-old daughter. Of course she was stressed out. And she wrestled with guilt over depriving them of so much. But as long as her boys were safe, entire days of screen time were... OK?

READ MORE: Co-learner, not gatekeeper

At first, maybe. But then, she writes: “Before long, things started to get out of control. They were online all day long. And it started to impact their mood and behavior. Every time I would ask them to shut off the devices and take a break or play outside, they would complain and argue. They would spend the whole day asking when they could get back on – like some kind of incessant two-headed whine monster.”

Cohn and her husband reset limits. The boys could play in the afternoon from 5 to 6 p.m. before dinner. The parents would be firm, consistent. Sounds simple. It was not.

As Cohn writes: “The withdrawal was real. They were awful for days! Genuinely upset and deeply frustrated around the clock. They cried, they were angry, they gave a million reasons why it wasn't fair. They both had toddler-style meltdowns! Really, if it wasn't so upsetting, it would have been quite funny. But after a few days, they started to settle into the new routine. They began to pull out their old toys and to play cards, Legos, and invent new make-believe games together! Bedtime got easier and their sleep improved. They seemed calmer. It was truly shocking how much of a difference we noticed in them.”

It can be done, fellow parents. But as with so many things, success depends on firmness and consistency.

More Homeschooling

  • Indoor spots for teens to play

    Older kids need exercise too

    a list of places for teens to have fun indoors read more »
  • Teach your kid to meditate

    Tips for toddlers, preschoolers, elementary-age, tweens, and teens

    Care for the mind is as important as care for the body, especially for kids. Mediation is a great way to help them help themselves. read more »
  • Vision boards show the way

    You kid’s pictures will speak louder than words

    A vision board is a powerful way for both you and your child to get to know themselves and their desires. read more »
  • Simple crafts to do on a holiday weekend

    Keep the kids entertained with lots of ideas from the HVParent Pinterest board

    116 simple crafts for kids from Hudson Valley Parent's Pinterest board read more »
  • Public speaking skills help for kids' competition

    4-H invites youth from across the Hudson Valley to expand their skills in the New Year

    Free 4-H event that teaches kids and teens how to become comfortable speaking publicly read more »
  • Squiggles to Words: The Emergent Writer

    Children begin mastering writing skills earlier then you think

    Learning to read and write is a complex task, but the wonder is children are thrilled to learn this skill. The trick is to keep a balance of drill and practice kinds of lessons with a higher proportion of authentic writing tasks. Filling in a worksheet on the letter ‘b’ is far less productive than actually writing about a ball or balloon. read more »
  • Protect your children and teens from the stress of cyberbullying

    One of the biggest challenges parents currently face is how to manage our children’s access to technology. Sadly, the rise in popularity of the internet, smartphones, and text messaging has led to a major bullying problem online, called cyberbullying. read more »
  • Tips for boosting your child’s IQ

    How to develop a Can-Do Attitude

    The most recent thinking in the world of learning is that the environment a child experiences has a great deal to do with whether or not a child reaches that full potential. What can a parent do to optimize their child’s successes in learning throughout life? read more »
  • Book Clubs: Not just for grown-ups anymore

    Kids, teens and adults can join in the fun together

    Book clubs are fashionable these days. For those of us who have always had our noses in a book, this is welcome news, but there are excellent reasons for joining book groups that go well beyond following the latest trend. Kids, teens and adults can join in the fun together read more »
  • This will be the winter of outside play

    For many reasons, there’s never been a better time for winter play

    Excellent advice from parents who knew the joys and benefits of winter play long before Covid-19 read more »