Screen Time: How to support rather than manage

There are few topics so widely debated in the unschooling world as screen time. On one end of the spectrum is the belief that screens are addictive and children are unable to manage their screen use in a healthy way so the adult caregiver must determine a screen limit for the child. At the other end of the spectrum is the belief that no one should interfere with nor make judgement about the child’s management of their own screen time.


Neither of those positions felt exactly right for our family. When observing our children’s screen use, we noticed that our six year old would consistently watch her screen until she felt terrible. She would not attend to her body’s needs, forgot about other plans she’d had and, after prolonged screen use, had a difficult time interacting pleasantly and productively with our family. Our eight year old did not often experience these problems and was always able to meet other needs and use screens in a way that felt good to her.

Long term goals for screen use: the end game!

Deciding on a firm screen limit for our children felt out of line with how we try to parent. We aim for partnership parenting, where we bring awarenesses or things we’ve noticed to our children and partner with them in brainstorming and testing solutions. Before we brought the issue to our children, we distilled our long term goals with regards to supporting our children’s screen use. Our hope is that they will use screens in ways that feel useful to them, to support their learning goals and interests, for passtime and pleasure, for rest and escape, to connect and communicate. Above all, we hope that their screen use supports rather than interferes with their personal goals.

With the end game in mind, we brought the awareness to our six year old that it seemed like she didn’t feel good after watching screens for a certain length of time. She agreed that she often didn’t feel very good because she would forget to eat or play other games, but that she needed help noticing. So, we created a “noticing tool” to try!