Needing advice on screen time limitations for 16 year old

Hi, I'm guessing there's been alot of dialogue on this topic but I'm putting it out there. My 16 year old daughter is very responsible, gets her school work done, her chores (which are fairly minimal). Before the pandemic, I had a pretty strict rule that devices couldn't be in the bedroom at night, but that's gone out the window and with school online and less to do, the screen time is all the time. And I'm exhausted and feeling at a loss about what limitations I can and should put in place, since I know this isn't good for her brain or emotional health.  I never allow devices at meal time but that's like 15 or 20 minutes out of our day. I get that this is an unusual moment in time, but I feel like I should be doing more to pull her out of the screen at least a little more than I am.

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Peaksy--- it IS difficult to manage kids away from the seductive screen.  And science says it does affect young brains.  Others, here, with kids still at home, going thru what you are, will be helpful.  I have grandkids. The eldest is 22.  He was on the computer/his phone all the time. ALL the time.  Then he went away from college, and now, in his last year, he's back home, studying online. The gods seem to be against those of us who are concerned about this sort of thing. But, in his case, with the Pandemic on his own, he's become interested in wood-working. He looks at youtube instructions every day.  So far, he's made a book case, an organizer, with plans to make a chest of drawers.  He says he doesn't have time for video games, facebooking, twitter,  or 'googlin' around'.  Hooray!  Could a hobby help your daughter?  Possible to explore something together--or even hire someone to explore with her?   --- If you want to be more miserable (just kiddin') well, just in case, then check out "The Social Dilemma" film, Netflix. We couldn't watch all of it 'cause it's such a downer.  My grandson, was happy I'd seen it and he told me that he's trying to get his father to see it too.  Ha!  How's that for a turnaround?  Unfortunately, his dad voted for Trump, gawd! hard for me to believe.  Anyway-- grandson feels dad "needs to see the light" about online mind-bending.   I wish you all the best!

I am a parent of a 18 year old.  If you have time during the week, then take a walk around the neighborhood before or after dinner or do something together on the weekends.  I would not change anything that you are doing inside your home right now because it is a special situation but I would get her outside more.   We have a lake nearby so we walk around the lake or we take short hikes and combine it with getting coffee or having a picnic.  If she is outdoors more she will have less time to look at her screen. 

Hi Peaksy, my daughter is 17 and I am having the same struggle.  Does she have an iPhone? If you have control of your daughter's apple id account, and/or you use family sharing on Apple, you can set screen time limits for your daughter at night by turning off all access.  If you don't have her on Apple's Family Sharing, you can require her to give you access to her phone, and then you set the Screen Time limits with a secret code.  I have read that kids do figure out how to get around the Screen Time limits with certain hacks, etc.  What I have done on occasion, and may start doing, is to turn off WiFi for her device through our router (which allows us to set WiFi limits for particular devices), and I have manually gone into my AT & T app and turned off her cellular, and then turn it back on in the morning (it's a hassle, but takes about 2 minutes to turn off and turn on).  My own daughter has seen a sharp decline in getting her work done and her grades (she's a senior) so I have no other choice but to limit her time.   If you're feeling like you  need to limit her screen time, then you probably do need to do it, and require her to accept her limits.  Their phones are a privilege, not a right in my view.  I get that they need their phones for social and school reasons, but setting limits (especially now, rather than waiting) is a necessity in my view, and I wish I had done it sooner.  Good luck, these are really hard times for the teens and parents. 

Hi Peaksy - I could have written the exact same email!  We've faced the exact same problem, and I'm sure it's a very common concern about parents.  We've wrestled with it, and here are a few thoughts. 

First, I hear a lot of teenagers are on their screens a lot because of the coronavirus situation: they're bored, maybe even a bit depressed, and don't have anything else to do.  I hear many teenagers even acknowledge they wish they weren't on their devices so much, but they can't think of an alternative.  Therefore, telling them to stay off their screens is difficult because there's nothing to replace it with.  So you might consider instead helping them find other activities.  For example, we set a rule that our kids had to spend 30 minutes a day on some physical activity - running, walking the dog, whatever, we even allowing dancing to the Let's Dance videogame.  Or see if you can develop any interests they have - join some sport (there seem to be some available these days like running clubs or martial arts), start a garden.  It depends on their interests.  For kids who are especially social like ours, we helped him plan socially-distanced picnic with friends in a local park.  Maybe regular bike rides with friends?

Second, 16 years old is pretty different from say 12.  At this age it seems appropriate to let them make their own decisions and manage their own time, even if we don't agree with their choices.  I have to bite my tongue a lot when my own 16-yo is sitting around on their phone for hours.  But I try to remember that they're learning from this.  I've learned that nagging just doesn't work.  What has helped me is to not think of them as a kid who needs to be corrected, but rather something like an adult who has their reasons for things.  Simply finding a way to talk to them about how they feel, in a nonjudgemental way (that's important!) helps me to hear what they're thinking, and understand them better.

Third, as much as I dislike screens, they also have their plus sides.  For one thing, teenagers are social creatures, and screens are how they connect with each other these days (especially during the shelter in place).  What does your 16-yo do on screens?  If she's chatting with friends, maybe that's age-appropriate.  I try to focus on the good things, like the fact that they're still getting good grades.

Finally, it depends on your parenting style how strict you want to be - you might make and enforce house rules, or only suggest them and let the kids choose.  We've thought about setting no-screen time for parts of the day, but taking responsibility away from a teen is a bit dangerous to our relationship, since I doubt they'd thank you for it.  Another idea is to put the information is front of them and help them think about it - you might watch "The Social Dilemma" on Netflix as a family, a documentary about how addictive social media is, and discuss what your teen thinks about it.

Good luck - screen time is a big concern these days, and it's not an easy one.

I can recommend the book "He's Not Lazy" by Dr. Adam Price.  It's a helpful perspective on how teenagers think, especially ones that seem to "opt out" and spend all their time on screens.  Our kid also spends way too much time on his devices, and we've tried different things, and this book helped us to understand him better and approach him a bit more sympathetically, and hopefully maintain a good relationship while we figure out the screen time problem.  Good luck.


I too had more limits on my 17 year old son’s screen time prior to the pandemic. I took the phone every night which also allowed me to occasionally check texts and Instagram messages.  Now with the phone acting as his main outside  lifeline I struggled to enforce limits.  But now I’ve been able to set limits using Comcast’s internet  “pause” feature for the phone he uses. It allows you to choose a device for “pausing” for 2 or 3 hours or until you “unpause” it. I give him a set number of hours when school and homework are done everyday. Then I “pause” the phone 30 minutes before bed and it stays that way until the next day. The pause blocks all access to the internet. He can play games he’s downloaded so not perfect but it does help. I don’t pause the laptop and find his focus is texting and Instagram.  You know your daughter and this might not work. For my moodily son, it’s now funny when I say “pause” he then stops the grumbling and negativity and takes care of his responsibilities. Good luck and continue being the adult. We all have limitations and learning how to manage them now is key to becoming an adult. 

“Pause” mom

I'm in the same boat, but have come to the conclusion that because my kid is doing really well in school, helps out when asked, gets enough sleep, is responsible and responsive by phone when he occasionally gets out of the house, I'm going to let it go.  If he wants to be on his screen a LOT, it's ok.  He plays interactive games online with friends, watches YouTube videos, and generally just hangs out.  If his grades slip, or he becomes belligerent, or other issues arise, I'll rethink.  I just think that these kids need to cope any way they can, and connecting with peers online is just about all the social interaction they have these days.  I'm not going to limit that.