As parents, we’re constantly sorting through expert advice on what’s safe and best for our kids. From sleep requirements to dietary habits to screen-time limits, the questions about when and how to intervene never end. Balancing expert recommendations with the messy reality of parenting isn’t exactly straightforward. Staying mindful of best practices, rules and guidelines isn’t always possible in the moment, and even when it is, it can be hard to adapt the data-driven takeaways from the latest research to daily life with kids.
In these situations, hearing from fellow parents who are also in the trenches of day-to-day parenting can be invaluable, as in this viral Reddit thread about how to raise a kiddo who isn’t obsessed with screens, which is a treasure trove of accurate, attainable advice.
A Reddit parent posed a question to the popular r/Parenting community about how to raise kids in a world of screens without them becoming obsessed as they get older — and the responses are insightful, realistic, and super helpful.
User u/Frosty_Extension_600 asked, “Parents of older children not obsessed with phones — how did you do it?” The Redditor gave some context and history on their connection to the question before asking other Reddit users to share their advice. “My baby is 10 months and already [wants] to play with our phones,” the new parent shared. “I also see friends and family who have elementary-aged kids, and some of them are obsessed with screens and others not so much.”
Pulling from two examples, the Reddit user explained they’ve seen two extremes to tackling screen time for young kids that resulted in the same outcome. “My friend did no screen time at all for her daughter for the first several years, and now her daughter is obsessed with screens and constantly asking anybody she sees with a phone or tablet if she can use it,” they explained. Adding, “On the other hand, I have little cousins who are allowed what seems like unlimited screen time and have their own tablets, and they’re also always on them.”
Recognizing those are “two extremes,” they’re not sure “where exactly the balance is in between.” “My question is for parents of kids who are older — junior high/high school — now that you’ve reached a point where you likely aren’t monitoring them so much and they make their own decisions to not be on screens all the time, what was your approach when they were younger to get to where they are now?” they asked the community.
The responses were varied and balanced — and there was a good mix of parents who limited screen time and those who didn’t strictly monitor use.
“We did zero screen time until 2 years old for each of our kids,” u/pbrown6 shared. “After that it was very limited, always on the TV, never a handheld device. We don’t own any video games.” They also have rules around their screen time use, which includes using a phone basket when everyone is home. “We have family dinners, family games, and read books. We’re lucky we live literally next to the public library. We play outside a lot!”
At u/jnissa’s home, they didn’t limit screen time. “We have always offered unlimited screen time. Always,” they explained. “The only rule was/is no small screens starting an hour before bed.” In their home, their kids have their own devices but they’re not constantly using them. “They do watch a show or listen to audiobooks or use a coloring app during breakfast — but then it’s not uncommon for it to be days in between uses. I often have to remind the 9-year-old to take her phone with her. The key is just that they have better things to do.”
u/missykins8472 has a slightly different approach, noting that screen time use is pretty individual in their experience. “For my kids, it’s actually a personality thing: 1 out of the 3 loves devices. The other two aren’t interested,” they explained. So, for their household, screen time use has become a balance thing. “For us, it’s all about balance. Making sure it doesn’t become a dependency. When we start seeing more of that behavior, we pull back…. Honestly, our kids are growing up in a world of screens. That’s their world. I’m here to help them navigate it as safely and healthy as I can.”
But, there was one big piece of advice that popped up several times in the comment section and that had nothing to do with when a child had access to screens and how much time they were allowed. Want to raise a kid who isn’t obsessed with screens? Look at your own usage.
“Consider exactly how much the child sees other people on the phone,” u/crimp_match suggested. “Children are supposed to learn most things through observing — how to smile, how to feel empathy, how to clean, how to eat, how to act, what activities are fun, etc. If the people around your child are always holding out looking at a phone, of course, your child will want it! Be mindful about what they see.”
u/loveskittles had a similar answer: “I think the best way to start is to monitor your own screen time, and your partner should do the same.” They explained that they’re “so into our phones that our kids get interested as well. Consider steps to reducing your own screen time.”
Then u/dnm7605 encouraged u/Frosty_Extension_600 to look at their own use. “Make sure you are limiting your time on your phone when you’re with them! They want your attention, and if you’re on your phone all the time, then they think it’s important and want to copy you,” they wrote.
According to u/Loose_Alternative990, they had came to this realization recently too, after catching themselves on their phone. “I recently caught myself looking at my phone, and when I looked up, so was her dad,” they explained. “We must have sat for around 15 minutes staring at our screens while she watched TV. I put it to one side and picked up a book on the bookshelf.” According to this Reddit user, this shift changed things in their home. “It immediately caught her attention, and she asked what I was reading and what it was about,” they explained. “It made me realize that she hasn’t actually seen me with a book other than a recipe book, magazine, or a story in reading to her.”
You can read the entire Reddit thread and all the responses here.