What Counts As Screen Time?


What Counts As Screen Time?Maybe it’s because we finally got the kids updated iPads this past year for Christmas (they had previously been limping along with our old ones circa 2011), but this summer feels like the first one we’ve really had to figure out a firm screen time policy, with clear rules and limits, for our three-, six- and nine-year-old. The alluring pull of an entire world of new apps for them, and a reprieve from the fighting for me, has been very strong.

In the past, the kids have mostly used their devices for watching shows during our afternoon “rest time,” but this summer I found them asking to get on at all other hours of the day, not sure what really constituted “being on their iPad” and what didn’t. So I thought I’d bring it to the hive mind and ask what y’all thought about what really “counts” as screen time?

Here are a few of the things we’ve settled on that can be done at any time of the day and don’t actually count towards their total limit of viewing time.

Audiobooks: My oldest daughter especially, is very into audiobooks these days. She loves being read to and wants to have her latest book playing during pretty much every waking minute. She folds laundry, does crafts or just plays with fidgets while she listens. As this is purely auditory and stimulating her imagination, we’ve decided audiobooks are an unlimited app.

Music: Similarly, the kids have recently downloaded Spotify Kids and are so thrilled to have music at their fingertips, which they can control, any time they want. They don’t have YouTube so streaming music videos aren’t included, but if they want to just jam out to music, they’re allowed to whenever they want. They frequently turn it into a dance party with their siblings and flashing nightlights so it doubles as an energy buster.

Podcasts: Sensing a trend, the kids were looking for more things they could listen to without restrictions, which led them to podcasts! They’ve each found some kid focused series about their interests and love learning new things they can wow the rest of us with. Some of their favorites include Family Road Trip Trivia (trivia style questions about popular kids’ movies and shows), any PBS Kids podcasts, Best Day Yet (mindfulness and meditation episodes for kids), and Preschool Stories and Songs.

Video Calls: The kids use several different apps to call family members and friends, depending on who they’re trying to reach. We really like the Messenger Kids app and have found it very user friendly for them in connecting with friends and cousins. For grown-up family members, they mostly use FaceTime or Google Duo. They are allowed to make and receive calls whenever they want because it feels like a valuable social tool they can use to maintain relationships with people we can’t always see in person.

Video Camera: Recently they’ve discovered another work around in the form of their tablet’s video camera. They have begun writing, starring in and directing their own sibling movies and it’s just the cutest thing. There is so much creative, collaborative effort going on here that the use of technology included feels like just a secondary aid. Bonus points that it’s giving them practice with editing software they may find useful for creating presentations in school later on.

Those are our screen time exceptions. Or at least the ones we’ve identified so far. Do y’all have any favorite ways to use technology that feel like a break from just the screen zombie zone out? I’d love to hear them.

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Hi! I’m Sara, former early childhood teacher turned stay at home mom to two girls and a boy (2013, 2016, and 2018). My husband and I got married in 2010 and are both ETSU alumni. Despite being born here, I grew up all over the country as the daughter of a military family, only finally moving back to the area in 2014. The mountains of East Tennessee were calling us home! I love all that Knoxville has to offer young families in the way of festivals, events, outdoorsy adventures and charm. When we’re not striking off on a weekend excursion to the Farmer’s Market or a new hiking spot, I can be found in my kitchen nurturing a semi-professional baking obsession or curled in the living room with a book. I love getting to write for and be part of this supportive community of moms!


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