How to Have the “Screen Time Talk”
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How to Have the “Screen Time Talk”

Navigating screen time boundaries can be tough, but sitting down and having the talk as a family can make all the difference.

Have you had “the talk” with your kids? No, not that one. The screen time talk is becoming one of the toughest challenges of modern parenting. For one, most parents today didn’t grow up with the same access to digital devices that their kids have now, making it somewhat unfamiliar territory. But talking to your kids about screen time is a lot like talking to them about anything else where clear rules and boundaries need to be set (looking both ways when crossing the street or driving a car for the first time)—if you start from the outset, there are fewer surprises down the road.

While Circle can help set digital boundaries with features like Filters, Time Limits, and Pause the Internet®, having an open conversation with your kids can help keep future arguments, misunderstandings, and headaches at bay. Studies have shown that kids respond better to predictable routines and boundaries, and providing more structure to life at home—online and off—can help kids feel safer and better prepare them for challenges down the road.

Here are some tips for having a more successful screen time conversation.

Keep it real.

Having the screen time talk IRL can help make kids feel a part of the process and set them up for success when it comes to their own screen time management. Whether it’s calling a family meeting or having one-on-one conversations, speaking directly to your kids, honestly and openly, about setting screen time limits will help them better understand why the rules are important and drive home that you’re all in this together.

“The number one thing that we can do to most effectively parent our kids and teens in the digital age is all about how we talk to them about screen time,” says Dr. Delaney Ruston, family physician and creator of the award-winning film Screenagers. “The key around rules is getting their collaboration when possible, making sure they understand why there are rules, then adjusting them as needed, and checking in over time.”

Start the conversation early.

It’s never too early to start talking to your kids about screen time and its role as a tool, toy, and family connector (or disconnector). Today’s “digital natives” have been born into the age of technology and brought up with the Internet. But growing up with unlimited access to devices and the Internet can have its drawbacks, such as leading kids to have a greater dependence on social media or devices instead of learning how to properly balance their online and offline lives. It’s never too late to talk to kids about screen time, but experts and parents agree: the sooner, the better.

Listen to what they have to say.

By including your kids in planning how they’ll get to use their devices, you can open the door to a more successful screen time conversation now and better habits in the future. But also listen to them and their concerns so they understand that this is about teaching them responsible screen time habits and not about taking away their freedom. By not framing it as punishment, kids will likely respond better and be more open to integrating screen time limits into their digital lives.

Show, don’t tell.

You can use Circle’s Filters—choosing which apps, categories, and websites your kids will be allowed to use—to help show how your new ground rules will work. (And it’s got handy preset age restrictions, so more commonly used or blocked apps are already set for you.) This is a great opportunity to explain to kids why you’re limiting or blocking access to something—and give them a chance to understand why they might not be ready for certain apps or games.

Back it up with facts.

Research has shown that with unrestricted access to screens, kids can spend up to seven or eight hours a day on devices. Setting healthy limits can teach kids to appreciate the time they have on and off devices, spend their time more efficiently, and set them up for success when they’re older, decreasing their dependency on devices.

Be the change you want to see.

Be sure to keep the conversation going with your kids, as their priorities and tastes—online and off—will change over time. Having them be an active part of the discussion will give them more agency to make choices for themselves, while also helping them develop better habits and avoid screen addiction. But most importantly, you have to walk the walk as well. While you likely have slightly different rules for yourself, share those and keep to them. Kids tend to emulate the behaviors they see, so if they see you not sticking to your own rules, they might not either.

Whether you have young kids who aren’t quite online yet, or teens who are already jumping on the latest trending TikTok fad, Circle is here to help set some guardrails to make digital parenting easier. Learn how.

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