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Parents Weigh In On Screen Time Survey

March 28th, 2017

{photo by StartupStockPhotos}

How do you handle screen time/game time/device time in your family? It’s a question parents often ask each other, and it’s frequently a source of conflict and stress. Molly Trapp, mom of three SLOCA students, decided to survey her friends on this topic, and has graciously passed along the results for us to share on the blog! Read on…

When school started this year, the never-ending battle of device time began in our household. I’ll be honest, I wish all “game time” would go away, and yet I do begrudgingly admit that it can be constructive/educational and it does act like a nice pacifier at times. The whole subject just drives me crazy though. In hopes of finding some comfort in what others are doing, and in an attempt to find a better plan than what we were currently doing, I reached out to about 20 friends (here at SLOCA and beyond) to find out how their families handle things. Because every family has different capabilities and desires, I thought I would just pass along the results and let you draw your own conclusions. Here you go…

Q: When your kids play their game time, do they first need to meet certain criteria in order to play? 95% YES

Read independent book, play musical instrument, play/walk dog, play outside, read 1 chapter in the Bible, have room picked up, no fighting with siblings, polite/respectful during the week (for weekend-only gamers), all school/homework complete and done with a good attitude, journal writing, reading one news article and answering: who? what? when? why? how? (I like this one for the older kids!), or some kind of chore or "slave labor feat”. : ) Time requirements for these activities are set by the parents – i.e. they can’t just read a quick book then get game time.


Q: Do your kids play on devices during the week? 59% NO; 24% YES, every day; 17% YES, but not on campus days; 0% YES, but not on home days

Some parents commented that mid-week shows/games needed to be educational or constructive (typing, chess, etc.). Others allow reading online or audio books without restrictions, within reason. One allows 10-minutes game time before school as a motivation to get all the chores done in time and make for a smooth morning.


Q: Do your kids play on devices on the weekends? 84% YES, 16% NO

Some parents require chores to be done and/or outside time first, and some only allow games on Saturday but not Sunday. And then there are also others that let the requirements/rules slide and screen time can be whenever. Everyone still requires time limits on weekends.


Q: How much time is your child allowed to play on devices each day &/or week? (Please specify if younger/older kids have different amounts.)

There was a wide range here. Most did not include audio book time in their device time. So much so I’ll just list out the answers. FOR WEEKDAYS: zero; 10-30min/day earned time; 30-min/d educational programs; 30-min total per week; 45-min twice a week; 1 hour/week; 2-3 hours per week; 1 hour/day (2 if including TV). FOR WEEKENDS: 0-2 hours/day; 30 min/day after reading 30 min; 45min/day; 1-2 hours/weekend; 2 hours games on Saturday/Netflix on Sunday; 2 hours/day.

One parent allows their child to play on screens when a friend is over to play during the week however that screen time gets deducted from their weekend screen time as they feel the kids should be playing together.


Q: Are siblings allowed to watch other siblings play, and does that account for their screen time? 53% YES and it counts for their screen time; 35% YES but it does not count toward their screen time; 5% NO, 5% No siblings. 

Many mentioned that they would rather have the kids play all at the same time (whether together or apart) so that screen time doesn’t take over the entire day.


Q: Are your kids only allowed to play during certain times of the day? 67% NO; 20% YES, only after school; 5% YES, only before school; YES, only before breakfast.

For most, as long as the above requirements are met, they don’t care what time of day it is. Very few allowed for screen time after dinner/before bedtime and that was only on weekends. 


Q: What games do you enjoy your kids playing?

Preschoolers: Lunchbox Monkey, Subway Surfer, Endless ABC, Phonics Island, Letter School, Minecraft, Stack the States, ABCMouse, Starfall, Reading Rainbow, Storybots, anything educational, nothing shooting/fighting.

Primary: Star Wars, Minecraft, Angry Birds, Animal Jam, Plants vs. Zombies, Mighty Machines (show), Disney Storytime, Kodable, Monument Valley, Todo Math, Stack the States, Skate game on X box, BBC Dance Map Typing, Super Mario Smash Brothers, anything educational, nothing shooting/fighting.

Intermediate: Subway Surfers, Minecraft, Khan Academy, Scratch, Codecademy, BBC Dance Map Typing, Various games on Wii, 2048 (this was new to me - interesting play with numbers)

Lower Middle School: Stack the States, Webkinz, Lego Star Wars, Candy Crush, Pinterest, Instagram, 2048.

Upper Middle School: Starbound, Subway Surfers, Minecraft, Boca Nature, Monument Valley, Candy Crush, Dragon Vale, Pinterest, Instagram,

Most agreed that they’d prefer the children play something where they are producing something, not consuming. Educational games are best but most kids don’t want to play them all the time. And, most said they pretty much hate screen time but “it’s a fact of life”. Does it have to be?!


Q: Is there another approach to “device time” that you know of that you want to adopt but haven’t had the time (or strength) to do so yet?

Most people wanted to be better at making their kids earn their time vs. allowing the time and then pulling the chores out of them later. Other than that, people are at a loss. One person suggested no devices when waiting's office, etc. As soon as her younger kids can read on their own, she wants that to be their entertainment. So, for now, she read to them. Good job, Mama!

One parent decided to put together a contract for their child - They read it together and both child and parents signed it. In the contract the parents start off explaining that the child has earned their trust and screen time is an option now. They laid out ground rules (no playing games with people online; parents have to approve the games; time allowances; timer will be set for 5 minutes before end of game time; when it’s done, no complaining or next session is pulled; etc.). They word the contract to affirm that device time is a privilege - one that’s been earned and has a potential to be taken away. They close the contract stating they are excited that they are able to give this child the opportunity for responsibility. 

A book recommendation provided was Boys Adrift by Leonard Sax.

Another parent suggested clearly communicating with the child about how screen time actually re-wires the brain, and emphasize the fact that we are blessed to be in a world with so many wonderful things such that we don’t need to place ourselves in a fictitious world when so much wonder and excitement is right in front of us.

Thank you, Molly! While there are no easy answers, it’s certainly interesting and helpful to see what others have implemented. 


Do you have something to add to the ideas or resources above? Have any helpful advice about managing screen time with kids? Please leave a comment – we all need encouragement and practical tips for this!