09 March 2021 (updated)

Ask Amelia: How Do I Limit Screen Time if Others Don't?

How should you limit screen time when you're with another family who has no limits? How do you stay sane when your baby just won't sleep? Amelia Peck, LMFT has answers for this and more in this week's "Ask Amelia"!

Limit Screen Time - Different Standards

Dear Amelia, 

My husband and I try really hard to limit our children’s screen time, but my sister and her husband let their kids watch anything and everything. What should I do when we’re together for a week-long family vacation? Do I just let my kids watch whatever they want? Or stand firm? I’m also afraid that my kids will say something judgmental about the other family. - The ScreenGuards

Dear ScreenGuards, 

Screen time is a big topic for many families. While studies have published recommendations and guidelines, how much kids watch and what they watch is up for constant debate. Also, standards you have for your family can be different than others and can be a breeding ground for judgment. Don’t go down that path. 

Set your own rules for screen time for your family and enforce that. However, there can be flexibility in all rules. For this situation you’re writing about, a vacation, traveling with kids required flexibility to begin with. And, depending on your location, preparation may be your ally. 

Research parks, museums, and other kid activities prior to arriving. Hopefully, a good variety of activities during the day can keep your kids busy and possibly eliminate the screen time debate

If your kids have a condition and screen time can exacerbate those symptoms, communicate that with your sister and ask for her support.

More Strategies to Limit Screen Time

For car time, teach your kids some old school games like ‘I Spy’ or the license plate game. Encourage everyone to join in if tablets are a temptation or you happen to have access to a car that comes with screens.

In the end, just like we do not want people setting standards for our kids, we cannot set standards for them. And if you are concerned when you get back home that screen time was too indulgent while on vacation, remind your kids of the extra treat of screen time they got and redirect them to toys, books, or other play. Returning from vacation is a reset process on many levels. Screen time included. 

About your fears of the kids saying something judgmental, to this, I challenge you to look at yourself and reflect on how you and your husband talk about them and others who allow their kids to indulge in screen time. Our kids look to usto set the tone for how we approach situations, those who live as we do, and those who do not. I know it is challenging when your kids see others allowed to do something they are not. If my kids point this out, I simply say, "I don't know their rules, I'm not their mom."

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