Kids and downtime / screentime help

Hi all,
We have an 11 year old and are struggling with the best way to set up screen time for them. They have “hacked” it numerous times (mostly changing time zones and deleting/re-downloading apps for more time) and we have closed those loop holes. To be honest…it kinda made me proud :crazy_face:.

Any good websites or articles anyone can recommend on the topic? There is a lot of junk “articles” out there about this that end up being ads for 3rd party apps. We want to limit app time but also restrict to certain hours and they seem to interfere with one another. I also wish we could do two “downtimes” a day (school and bedtime)….but that doesn’t seem to be an option?

Any thoughts or recommendations are appreciated!


Long time no see :slight_smile:

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I’d suggest googling for sites that tell kids “how to hack screen time”, as a starting point for the research.

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She can’t. Her kids have blocked those searches from working.


We have 3 kids and have never found a technological solution that worked. We talk a lot about expectations, telling the truth, and obedience. I’m not so naive as to think this is a perfect system either, but “where there’s a will, there’s a way,” so I’ve given up on expecting the technological tools to prevent them from doing anything. A family charging station where devices have to go during “screens off” time is something we’ve found helpful - not just for them, but for mom and dad too!

Best of luck!


I use an eero router to shut off internet to my kids’ devices.

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Not advocating for this… Just sharing a thought…

I freely admit to being a screen addict and computer geek. A large part of this is how addictive screens and the internet are. But what if there is an element of the below as well?

My parents heavily regulated when I could go on screens. They would put a 30 minute timer on and after that I had to stop what I was doing. They’d remove screen time as a punishment, and reduce the next screen time if I protested. These are all negative reinforcements.

The outcome became that I hated the timer and coveted ‘screen time’* even more.

With our kids, we’re trying to find a balance. Letting them go on when it’s not destructive/a problem and trying to get them to self regulate from there. e.g. if they are filled with iPad-rage/iRage when we ask them to turn it off we talk it through with them. Explaining how that isn’t OK and not ‘healthy’. Or, if it’s a nice day we encourage them outside. It’s a tricky balance because you don’t want them hating good weather. Wishing it was bad so they can go on their iPad/devices. The goal being to influence them to do the right thing, giving them the opportunity/ability to choose/do the right thing themselves.

Is it a battle/thing you need to fight? If you let them go on when they want/as much as they would like, they won’t covet it as much? Can you find a way to let them experience unlimited access and the chance to self regulate, with some safety nets/boundaries (e.g. surfing the net all night is a bad idea - screens off by 9pm helps you sleep etc, then encourage them to make that choice)?

As another example, we let our eldest eat as many sweets as she likes after lunch on a Saturday. She’s not the best eater but provided she has had some nutrition then any sugar spike is offset/the impact of eating ‘unlimited’ sweets is greatly reduced. She’s never once finished a pack or asked for more. vs. some of our peers who say you can choose X sweets and then spend the next 30 mins being pestered for X+Y/arguing over numbers.

Caveat: My kids are under 5 :D. I’ve no idea how practical or reasonable this is with teenagers. I’ll keep you posted :D.

*I’m 40 this year so screen time was a BBC Micro → ZX Spectrum → 086 → 286 → 386 → 486 → Pentium → Moved out to go to Uni/work :D.


You could also use this as a way to empower them to do the right thing. By including them on setting what the right thing actually is.

e.g. you can both agree that going on a screen 24-7 is a bad idea. So what is a good idea? What are their thoughts. What do they think is reasonable. You’re far more likely to stick to something you agree too, and it’s positively framed rather than negatively reinforced.

Edit: You’re helping them practise making good decisions vs. being the enforcer of good decisions.

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Having had taught for many moons, specifically Early Childhood, I’ll tell you simply “You’re the boss!” Maybe let them earn Internet time. Teachers Stores have lil incentive charts. You can give a sticker for good behavior (be specific). Kids want limits because they know they are too young to know as well as you. Just guidance. They can even earn time online with you. They will covet that time and really appreciate it.

Also if they are involved in a specific activity, like an educational game or a story, you want to avoid cutting off their concentration. That is just something to keep in mind.

They are too young to even have a very good concept of time, how much time has passed, how much is left. Get yourself a timer, the kind you wind. That will help them grasp time a little bit. They can get an idea of how much time is left. You can always make it a positive experience, not a negative one at all.

If you want them to be a little more independent, talk to them when you are setting up rules.Ask for their thoughts. Any limits will be much more reasonable to them if they have a say-so and are consulted.

Depending on the ages and your children specifically, I’d say half hour blocks is plenty of time.

Kids that age learn from singing, dancing, listening to stories, playing games, jumping rope, putting on plays, artwork, nature walks, field trips, library visits, dolls, dress up, legos, reading and telling stories. This is all stuff that SHOULD be taught in kindergarten and no longer is. So you best make up for it. (They will learn to read. I don’t understand the big hurry.)

All those things are just as much fun as getting on the Internet.

I’d avoid giving them that much responsibility because it could get out of hand. And as I indicated they are too little and basically will be clueless about setting limits.

Good luck! They’ll be fine. Kids around that age are marvelous and full of wonder about the world.


We use something called OurPact for our 11 year old. Disable access on her iPad and by magic she appears downstairs


Thanks all! We do have eero and I shut off their devices at a certain time. Of course phone has cellular, so they can bypass that. And of course my iPad sometime disappears :rofl: probably easiest to have a charging station in our bedroom and keep all devices there overnight. They are sneaky - and it is always YouTube and TikTok.

Just wish screentime and downtime had a few more options to customize

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