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.

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