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8 Clever Ways to Limit Screen Time for ADHD Kids

how to limit screen time

Did you know that ADHD Kids are much more likely to become addicted to screens given the dopamine rush that screens can provide?

Limiting screen time is tough with our ADHD kiddos and it very often feels like an endless battle.

I am so passionate about this subject, that I have two other blog posts this subject – an Epic Everything Screens and ADHD Post and another one specifically on cell phone use for ADHD kids. 

This post has been updated for Covid 19 and has some quick, easy win ideas you can implement today to begin to tear your kiddo away from their phone, ipad or computer screen. 

Covid-19 and all the extra screen time that has become normalized and required of our kids certainly has not helped.  In fact, it has really ramped things up – a ton. 

Screens are everywhere and many times our kids’ screen use is out of our control (at school, on the bus, after school events).That’s why I focus on what I can do at home to not only teach and model appropriate, healthy use of screens, but also to promote other activities that are not on a screen. 

Putting Limits on Screen Use for ADHD Kids

I have put limits on my kids screen use since forever ago. I saw the ill effects even watching an “educational” TV had, on my then, toddlers brain.

As they have grown, into now teens and tweens, I have had to rethink and flex our household screen policies a bit.  So these ideas for limiting screen time are appropriate for a big age range!

If you are like me and still want to keep screen time at bay here are 7 clever ways to limit screen time anytime. These suggestions are great for limiting  screen use in anyone – including us parents!  

Set Clear Expectations and Stick to Them

Setting clear expectations for screen time can really help.  When kids know exactly when screens are available to them, they stop asking and know they must find other ways to spend their time.

 In order for this to be the most effective, you really have to stick to it.

First, you need to decide on how much screen time is appropriate for your kids.

Screen time limits for each age range

Ultimately, you know your kids. But here are some guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics that will help figure out what is right for your family. 

Pre-school aged kids – The AAP recommends no more than 1 hour per day for kids 18 months to 5.  The time should be spent with intentional, quality, age-appropriate programming. Parents should also sit with their kids and be a part of what they are viewing on a screen when possible. 

Ages 5 to 17 – The AAP, interestingly enough has set no limit for this age group. But they do focus on prioritizing family time, homework, exercise, and pursuing hobbies that are off a screen. 

I get it. Deciding on screen time is not a one size fits all approach.  

The screen time expectation that worked for us when my kids were in elementary school (no screens during the week, except for school work), doesn’t work now.

A lot of my high schooler’s social life is on a screen.  He’s got classwork and homework on a screen.

But there are many areas where you can easily set limits, no matter what your kids age.

Simple ways to limit screens for all ages:

Consider trying one or two of these for your family.

  • No screens until homework is finished and checked.
  • No screens at the table or in the car, restaurant, during family time.
  • No screens in bedrooms.
  • All screens off at least an hour before bed.
  • Time limits set for younger children, like an hour a day for elementary kids. 
  • No screens until after 4:30 on weekends, or set a limit each day, like screens between 5 pm and 6 pm only. 
  • One night a week without any screens, unless the whole family is watching together. 

We’ve chosen a few as a family and it does help to foster more connection. We have no phones in the car or at the table  and all screens are off at 9 pm.

Model healthy use of screens

This one is huge. HUGE. 

Kids learn by what you do, not what you say.  

If you are on your phone all day, it’s very hard to tell you kid not to be. 

Show your kids you are not a slave to your device by turning it off and putting it down for at least an hour or two a night (Work up to more!) 

We have a no screens at the table rule and have my 13 year old’s phone set to one hour of use a day. We all put our phones on the counter to be charged and keep our hands off them as much as possible every evening. 

Leave the devices at home

Out of sight, out of mind!

 It can be tempting to fill car rides, grocery store visits,  and waiting rooms with screen time.  I get it, it keeps kids quiet.  But, letting them have to entertain themselves with their own thoughts, a book  or family conversation can be super beneficial. Children need time to just sit and take in the world around them without being entertained – no matter what their age.  

Physical therapists, eye doctors, and teachers are all seeing the negative effects that screens are having on kids. 

If your kids are used to having screens often it may be hard to go cold turkey–choose a few times a week when the devices stay home and see what happens!

Start a tradition of family night

One night a week plan on doing something as a family!  Making this a weekly tradition can be a super idea to stay connected as a family.

Phones and Ipads can be stored away and board games or hiking shoes can come out of the closet!  

This can be such a great way to rekindle an old hobby or explore something new. 

Family nights can include:

  • Exploring a local nature preserve
  • Taking a city tour
  • Visiting a new restaurant
  • Pursuing a hobby as a family. 
  • Listening to a read aloud or book on tape as a family. 

Give your kids an allowance for books

I’d rather have my kids reading than be on devices any ol’ day.  I make sure we have lots of books available from the library, but I also  give my kids an allowance for books.

We have super low budget of $5.00 a month for each kid because we have some great second hand book stores near us.  I (mostly) let them choose what they want– keeping it age appropriate.  

They are really discriminating when they are spending their own money – a a good lesson on so many levels.

limit screen time

Start a tinker space

If you want kids to be off devices, you will have to entice them with other things.

Having materials available to them to explore–whether it be art or science-or both, is a great way for them build their creativity and problem solving skills.

Set out a few art supplies in a caddy or invest is some stem supplies like these or these.  Check out Pinterest boards for easy stem ideas and definitely check my sidebar to download my free guide with loads of ideas on setting up your own tinker space.

Learn a new hobby

Summer is a great time to pursue a new interest or hobby.  Buy a yo-yo. Check out a book from the library on juggling or knitting for kids.  

There on so many online courses(yes, a screen, but it’s not at all the same as mind-numbing video games) for kids–check out Jam and Creativebug.

You can also prescreen Youtube videos that help teach a certain skill.  I love this one on yo-yo tricks and this one on making pumpkin muffins. My kids will be improving their “typing” skills with Keyboarding Without Tears, as well.

Keep a family puzzle set up at all times

Setting up a family puzzle can be a great way to bring people together.  Lots of fun conversations can be had  when searching for that right piece of the puzzle.

Puzzles are super for improving spatial awareness, problem solving skills, and building attention spans! Start easy and make sure you choose a puzzle that can be worked on by all(or most!)of your family.

Find a central location where you can keep a puzzle set up and see who it attracts. You may have to spend some time their yourself to get the ball rolling.

You just might start a wonderful new tradition!

Final thoughts on screen use and ADHD Kids

I realize that there are so many great things about screens-but, I also know that kids can be addicted very quickly to the not so great options of screen time.  As a parent, I want my kids to be using screens to enhance reality instead of escape from it.  Summer has so many great opportunities to be in tune with the world around them-I would hate for them to miss out on those wonderful adventures!

Please share your ideas on how you plan to limit screen time this summer-I’d love to hear them. Check out these posts, here and here for more discussion on screen time and kids.

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