The Hard Stuff: Screen Time

The Hard Stuff: Screen Time
Words by Noah Holmes
illustration by Jamison Harper

Managing screen time is a constant topic for many parents. With no generations of parents before us to help with this topic, how do we define the etiquette for the next generation? Good Grit brought on a future writer and current middle schooler, Noah Holmes, to help us tackle the issue:

From a 12-year-old’s perspective, video games, texting, and TV are something entertaining and everlasting. Unless your phone dies, or you watch every show on Netflix, you will always have something new and fresh to do. The only problem is, most parents don’t see it that way. My mom sure doesn’t. She wants me to “go outside” or “use your imagination!” I’m sure many kids my age can relate. I, personally, want to text my friends all I want, or play Fortnite all day, but a voice in the back of even my brain tells me that maybe, just maybe, I shouldn’t be texting for six hours straight. Or gaming for all my waking hours. If a teenager can listen to that voice, with guidance from their parents (of course), it will develop skills they can use for the rest of their life. 

The question all parents are asking themselves is this: “Should I limit the amount of time my child is playing video games or texting their friend?” Yes. I think you should, but to a limit. Taking complete control of your kid’s choices and preferences hurts them more than it helps them. 

When my parent removes my phone from my hands or forces me to get off my Switch, I get angry. I don’t want to end my conversation with my friend abruptly, stop watching the best part of my show, or save my game right then. I want to play for as long as I want. Here are my recommendations for how to limit, but not control, your child’s screen time:

Give your child freedom, to a point.

For example, give them six hours a week. I can choose whether I text my friends for six hours straight or split it up throughout the week. 

Try not to yell at your child. 

When someone yells at me, my defenses go straight up. Instead of listening to a parent's reasoning, I want to yell back at them. Try talking to them in a neutral tone of voice. 


Depending on how you grew up, some parents never have played video games or binge-watched an excellent show. An easy way to do this is to watch your child play video games or observe their contentment while texting their friends.

Q: What about when my child isn’t respecting that screen time is upwhen the show isn’t over or the game isn’t complete? How would you suggest your parent handle that, other than  grabbing the device from their hand?

A: I believe the best way to hold them accountable is to talk to them. If they refuse, then that is when you have to step in sternly, maybe by taking the phone from their hands. If they respond with something similar to, “Mom! What the heck?”, this is when you can teach them. Respond with something such as, “Buddy, you weren’t listening to me,” or “Buddy, if this system is going to work, then you have to listen to me.”

Q: How do you manage or think kids your age can manage their own screen time? Set alarms? 

A: Something that has worked for my family is setting timers. So, if you plan to play six hours, you can set a timer for it, and you can pause it if you don’t finish your time. 

Q: What do you think about adults with screen time? What are your observations about how it is being managed by example?

A: I think that parents need to set a good example. For instance, not being on their phones for a lengthened amount of time, or not sitting down to watch TV for hours after the children go to bed. Show your kids that even when you are an adult, you have to limit your screen time.