How to convince your family to turn off the television

How to convince your family to turn off the television

“Just a sec,” say nine out of 10 parents answering an email when their kid asks them for something. If it’s hard for us to jump out of the digital world, just imagine you’re 3 and the lines between fantasy and reality are already blurred — then throw in a super-engaging, colorful, fun, immersive experience. Or you’re 5 and each episode of Mutt & Stuff on the Nick Jr. app is better than the last. Or you’re 8 and you’re almost finished building something amazing in Minecraft. Why would you ever want to stop?

This is why getting kids off their devices is so tough. And when threatening doesn’t work, and you discover the research that two-minute warnings aren’t the best option either, what can you do? Thankfully, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has some new guidelines around screen use that ease some parental guilt, but you still need to get your kid off the iPad at some point. Aside from being a strong role model, try these tips to minimize conflict and find the balance we’re all seeking.

  • Have another activity lined up (bonus points for making it seem fun). For the youngest device users, transitions are hard — period. Even if the next “to do” is a “must do” (such as eating lunch), tell your kid what’s coming next. You can rehearse the process: “When I say stop, it’s time for the iPad to go night-night. Let’s see how fast you can flip it shut! As soon as it’s asleep, we can sneak into the other room and paint.”
  • Use visual and sound cues to help kids keep track of time limits. For kids who don’t yet know how to tell time, try a timer that can help put them in charge of the process: “When the time is up, it’ll look and sound like this.”
  • Findapps with built-intimers. Video streamers like Cakey and Huvi throw parents a bone and have internal timers so the app stops on its own. Then it’s up to the parent to make sure kiddo doesn’t just jump into another app.
  • Tell kids to stop at a natural break, such as the end of an episode, level, or activity. It’s hard for kids (and adults!) to stop in the middle of something. Before your kid gets on a device, talk about what they want to do or play, what will be a good place to stop, and how long they think it’ll take. Set the limit together and hold to it, though a little wiggle room (a couple of minutes so they can finish) is fine.
  • Discuss consequences and follow through when kids test the limits. When all else fails, it’s important to have discussed consequences for when your kid won’t give it up. For little kids, the line can be something like, “If it’s too hard to turn off, the tablet has to go away for a whole day.” For older kids it’s more about keeping devices in a public space, setting expectations, and enforcing them. If they show you they can be partners in moderating and regulating themselves, there can be more flexibility.

Written by joshua becker · 125 Comments

How to convince your family to turn off the television

Before we made the decision to intentionally live with less, we were just a typical family of four living in the suburbs. But since finding a rational approach to minimalism, our lives have changed in countless ways – some big, some small.

One change that seemed small at the time actually had a profound impact on the quality of our lives, marriage, and family. We removed the television from our bedroom. At first, it was just a 30-day experiment. But given the overwhelming benefits that accompanied its removal, it is a change we look back on with great fondness.

Consider the benefits:

1. More/Better sleep. The same statistics that tell us Americans watch over 35 hours of television/week are the same statistics that make it clear the lure of the screen is just too strong to turn off. No one sets out to spend 5 hours/day watching television. The temptation is too great… especially when we are tired. Not only does television in the bedroom keep us up later at night, but there are also studies that indicate watching television before bed actually disrupts sleep cycles. Removing the television from your bedroom results in more sleep and better sleep… which means you’ll have a better rested, more productive day.

2. What you think about last matters. The evening provides valuable opportunity to meditate, evaluate, and assess your day. This examination leads to learning from our mistakes and growing as humans. Unfortunately, many people will sacrifice this opportunity for the sake of entertainment.

3. What you think about first matters. Every morning begins with a clean slate and brand new opportunities. Allowing your television to guide your morning thoughts takes that blank canvas and begins painting. We would be wise to choose carefully who/what directs our morning thoughts rather than blindly allowing television producers to do it for us. After all, it sets the stage for the rest of the day.

4. Example for your kids. Children with televisions in their bedrooms score lower on school tests and are more likely to have sleep problems. Also, having a television in the bedroom is strongly associated with being overweight and a higher risk for smoking. And that’s a pretty strong argument to remove theirs and yours.

5. More conversation. As a married couple, some of your most important, intimate conversations will take place in your bedroom during the waning hours of the day… unless of course, the television is on instead.

6. More/Better sex. Couples who keep a TV in the bedroom have sex half as often as those who don’t. Probably because there are over a million things more stimulating than a man watching ESPN SportsCenter. And if you ask me, that should be reason enough…

7. Less clutter. Your television takes up space (even when hidden). And I haven’t met anybody who actually enjoys more clutter in their homes.

8. Less advertisements at your weakest. Studies reveal what we already know to be true: Consumers are more susceptible to advertisements when they are tired. Depletion leads us to feel as if we’ve been more thorough and thoughtful in our processing and therefore, we become more certain in our attitudes.

9. Realistic expectations on your marriage. In almost all regards, television rarely depicts the world and life accurately. As a result, too much television results in disillusionment about what to expect from the world around us. This can be most detrimental to our relationships when the unrealistic expectations are applied to our marriage, family, love, romance, and sexuality.

10. Rooms serve purposes. Kitchens are for cooking… Dining Rooms are for eating… Toy Rooms are for playing… Offices are for working… Rooms serve purposes. The better we define those rooms and their purposes, the more productive they become. Use your bedroom only for sleep and sex by taking work materials, computers, and televisions out of the sleeping environment.

11. Televisions attract dust. All electronics attract and trap dust… something about static electricity. While I don’t understand the physics, I see the result. And isn’t there enough dust already in your bedroom… why would you want to attract more?

12. Get ready faster. Having the television on while getting ready in the morning adds extra time to the process. And who wants to spend more time getting ready?

13. More reading. Light reading in the evening helps many fall asleep faster. But even if it doesn’t help you sleep, the benefits of reading still far outweigh the benefits of television. Removing the television from your bedroom will almost always encourage more reading in your life.

14. Going to sleep together. While some couples have successfully navigated the television schedule and actually go to sleep together (We watch the King of Queens every night and then fall asleep), we never could. Perhaps we’re less disciplined… but more likely, she liked watching TLC far more than I did. Removing the television helps foster intimacy by not just going to bed at the same time, but by falling asleep at the same time as well.

15. Less electricity/energy use. Household electronics continue to use energy and electricity even when powered off. It’s called standby-power and it amounts to 5-10% of your total electricity bill. One less television means one less financial drain on your checkbook.

16. Your attention is far too valuable. There are very important people in your life who need your attention every single day. Removing the television from your bedroom will help you give it to the people who need it the most.

17. Masking problems in your marriage. When two imperfect people come together to form an intimate union that shares everything, there are bound to be some problems along the way. Successful couples notice them, discuss them, and find compromise that makes both sides better. Unsuccessful couples don’t. Our marriages require us to be intentional and thoughtful. And that rarely happens when the television is on.

18. Watch less television. Inherent in each of these reasons above is the reality that removing the television from your bedroom means that you will watch less television. And there are all sorts of good reasons for that: 11 Reasons to Ditch Your Television, 10 Reasons to Watch Less Television, 4 Simple Reasons to Sell Your TV.

If words on a page aren’t quite enough for you or your partner, commit to try it out as a 30 day experimentation. Unplugging the television and moving it into a different room will take less than 3 minutes. There is an end in sight. You’ve got nothing to lose. And maybe, just maybe, a whole lot to gain.

Again, I’m not saying you have to remove the television from your bedroom. I’m just saying your life will be better if you do.

Written by joshua becker · 103 Comments

How to convince your family to turn off the television

Television is the menace that everyone loves to hate but can’t seem to live without.” —Paddy Chayevsky

These stats from Kaiser Family Foundation illustrate a frightening trend when it comes to screen time for kids:

  • Kids under age 6 watch an average of about 2 hours of screen media a day, primarily TV and videos or DVDs.
  • Kids and teens 8 to 18 years spend nearly 4 hours a day in front of a TV screen and almost 2 additional hours on the computer (outside of schoolwork) and playing video games.
  • Counting all media outlets, 8 to 18 year-olds devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes to using entertainment media across a typical day

And the effects of television, or any technology addiction, on children are not good. Children who watch too much television:

  • Carry a much higher risk of childhood obesity.
  • Are more likely to display aggressive behavior. Children naturally copy what they see. (For a simple, chilling experiment, allow your son to watch professional wrestling and see how long it takes before he tackles his sister).
  • Are more likely to engage in “risky behaviors” when they get older.
  • Have less energy.
  • Have a harder time in school.
  • Are more-exposed to commercials, advertisements, and propaganda.

Most people would agree that our culture watches too much. Yet, few people are able to curb their habit and reclaim their life. And even fewer know how to help their children navigate the media-drenched world we live in.

Here are 12 tips to help limit screen time for your kids.

Each of these are tried-and-true methods used in our home and others.

1. Set the Example. Sorry to start with the toughest one, but there is nowhere else to start. Children will always gravitate toward the modeled behaviors of their parents. If they see you reading a book, they are more likely to read. And if they see you watching television, so will they.

2. Be the Parent. It is your job to encourage healthy behaviors and limit unhealthy ones – sometimes this means making unpopular decisions like limiting your children’s screen time. Make these tough decisions for your children. And always go the next step of explaining why you have made the decision – this will help them follow through and someday choose it for themselves.

3. Set Limited Viewing Times. If you are not going to turn off the television completely, choose the appropriate television viewing windows for your kids. It is much easier to limit their viewing habit if they understand that they can only watch one show in the morning and one show after school (as just an example).

4. Encourage Other Activities. And provide the necessary resources (books to read, board games, art supplies, and/or sporting equipment).

5. Play with Your Kids. Get down on the floor with your kids and pick up a doll, truck, or ball. It takes intentionality and selfless love when they are 6. But when they turn 13, you’ll be glad you did.

6. Be Involved in Their Lives. For many parents, it is just easier to turn on the television than to actually be involved in the lives of their children. But those intimate life details are required for successful parenting. So observe, listen, ask, and parent.

7. Cut your Cable / Remove Your Television Completely. If you want a sure-fire way to limit your child’s television viewing habits, cut your cable/satellite television feed (or remove your television completely). It will change your family’s life overnight (it changed ours). Oh, by the way, it will positively impact your checkbook too.

8. Observe Your Child’s Behavioral Changes. Television has an immediate impact on your child’s behavior. After too much television/video games, my children get irritable, aggressive, selfish, and impatient. I can tell almost the moment I walk in the door. Be on the look-out for these behavioral changes. When you start to notice them yourself, you’ll be less inclined to put your kids in front of the screen.

9. Don’t Worry if They Miss Out on Parts of the Conversation. Your child’s friend will talk about television. They will compare notes about cartoons, Nickelodeon, or prime-time programming. You will think that you are depriving your child of friendships because they can not join in on those parts of the conversation (I’m speaking from experience). But don’t worry. You will have successfully prepared to your child to enter into far deeper, richer conversations than the most recent Hannah Montana episode.

10. Value Family Meals and Car Rides. About two-thirds (64%) of young people say the TV is usually on during meals. That’s too bad because your family’s richest conversations will always take place during meals and in the car. Value those times with your kids. Don’t let the TV steal them from you.

11. No TV in Bedrooms. Not your kids’ rooms. And not yours either.

12. Find your mantra. A mantra is a sound, word, or group of words that are considered capable of creating transformation. While the words may not be magic in themselves, the consistent use of them can be. Every parent should have them and use them effectively. My “too-much television” mantra goes like this, “There’s been too much screen time in this family.” And every time my kids hear me say it, they know what it means… they know we are about to spend some quality time together.

Limiting your child’s screen time may seem like an impossible chore or it may seem like a battle that is too difficult to fight. But it is worth fighting.

Implementing just a few steps right away will help you implement the others. Television viewing is a momentum-gathering behavior. The more you do it, the more compelled you are to continue (advertisements have that effect on viewers).

But the opposite is also true. The more you turn it off, the easier it becomes to keep off and limit the screen time for kids.


It feels like screaming into the void at this point, but “The Good Fight” is currently airing a sensational season and, for the love of Christine Baranski, attention must be paid.

Kevin Fallon

Senior Entertainment Reporter

T his is a preview of our pop culture newsletter The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, written by senior entertainment reporter Kevin Fallon. To receive the full newsletter in your inbox each week, sign up for it here.

The Good Fight Is on an Incredible Run Right Now

It was heartening throughout the pandemic to hear from friends and family how many people were bingeing The Good Wife. And I understood why anyone who sampled it became obsessed. The politician’s wife dealing with his scandal was a juicy hook. Kalinda was TV’s best character, until she was the worst. Alicia and Will’s sexual chemistry had me practically living in a cold shower.

I can’t remember the last time I was as shocked by an episode of television as I was by season five’s “Dramatics, Your Honor,” an hour of television trauma my therapist and I are still working through. Then there was the show’s superhero in a smart statement blazer, the regal Diane Lockhart, played by Christine Baranski—and the series-ending slap I felt on my own damn face.

Whenever given the opportunity to delight in someone’s excited conversations about The Good Wife, a series that probably ranks in my top 10 favorites, I end with the logical question: So did you start watching The Good Fight next?

Inevitably and bafflingly, the answer is almost always no. Make it make sense. A sequel series to the show you just binged and loved exists, and critics have been screaming praise about it for the last five years at such a volume that there is an epidemic of TV journalists whose vocal cords have ejected from their throats.

Why in the world isn’t everybody watching?

I mention this now because The Good Fight, a series that should have won Best Drama at the Emmys twice by now, is having what may be its best season ever. The seventh episode of the fifth season premiered this week on Paramount+, continuing what counts among the most thrilling stretch of episodes in a TV series this year.

No series engages with the real world with such ballsiness. We’re not talking those tacky, ripped-from-the-headlines storylines on Law & Order: SVU that everyone insists are campy and fun when really they’re mostly exploitative, cheesy, and borderline unwatchable. Past seasons of The Good Fight have tackled everything from Trump’s surprise 2016 victory to the pee tape, and highbrow-lowbrow news headlines spanning the Bachelor in Paradise alleged sexual assault, the notorious Shitty Men list, the insufferability of Milo Yiannapoulos, and the location of Jeffrey Epstein’s, um… penis.

It’s not just that the series finds surprising, intelligent angles into discourses that may already seem saturated. It’s that somehow, and in a way that I’ve never seen on another TV show, it manages to stage each episode with something of an emotional mirror. It manages to reflect the spectrum of feelings you have as someone who has lived through these news stories but might not have had the space to process them. It sounds hokey, but it’s so vivid and smartly done.

That’s been especially true of this season. It launched with an episode that sprinted through the trauma of the year since the series last aired: the pandemic, Black Lives Matter, the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Trump’s election threats.

After enduring an upsetting number of other series that all faltered with their ambitions to cover the same topics, the idea of another TV drama doing a surface-level, patronizing string of episodes about COVID-19 was about as attractive as going into a bar packed with unmasked patrons while a scary, vaccine-resistant variant of the virus saunters through the country. (Oh wait…)

Of course The Good Fight tackled the pandemic in a way that was both powerful and inventive, yes. But it also employed that emotional mirror to striking effect.

You know that feeling of the last few years, where the fear and dread mutate into the anxiety-inducing suspicion that either everyone else has lost their minds or you have? It’s like there was once some sort of safety line that tethered you to reality, but someone cut it when you weren’t looking and now you’re spinning off into space, watching sanity, grace, and dignity disappear into the distance as you ping-pong against other people who are going through the same unsettling experience.

Somehow, the series has captured that. It’s also extremely fun.

Recent episodes feature a storyline in which Mandy Patinkin runs a kangaroo court called Courtroom 9 ¾ out of the back of a copy store that becomes popular because he rejects the laws and statutes that protect the powerful and often make real justice impossible. In a world where a state governor will show a slideshow of himself touching dozens of men’s faces as a defense against sexual harassment, Courtroom 9 ¾ leans into the madness but with a message: Every plaintiff and defendant must look each other in the eye and say “I respect and love you” after a ruling. Respect? Love? In this climate?


There was an episode that portrayed what life was like inside a hospital in spring 2020 for a COVID-19 patient that burrowed into me in a way I might not ever shake. Several episodes litigating people’s involvement—or not—in the Jan. 6 insurrection were fascinating. The show made headlines last week when a vision of RBG, played by all-time legend Elaine May, arrived to provide counsel to Diane. It wasn’t a gimmick or crass, as it might sound. It was glorious and moving.

This week’s new episode opened with a slideshow of photos of the likes of Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., Scott Rudin, and R. Kelly set to “Ave Maria,” almost like the world’s most repugnant “in memoriam” reel honoring harmful jackasses. Then the characters started discussing the details of Armie Hammer’s alleged cannibalism in relation to cancel culture and I almost screamed. It’s wild that a show exists that would dare touch that.

No show has the swagger of The Good Fight, whether it’s recently daring to turn the audience against Diane, the protagonist, or sometimes waiting 20 minutes into the episode to launch the opening credits (truly a baller move). Now there’s just one thing it needs to do to really impress: Get you to freaking watch it.

With so many unknowns about COVID-19, there are plenty of conspiracy theories circulating. So many are floating around the internet that the World Health Organization has declared an “infodemic” of false information about the virus.

While conspiracy theories have always existed, social media means baseless, and even harmful, conjecture can reach millions of people in seconds before it can be vetted or censored.

In response, the fact-checking site Snopes has created a special collection of COVID-19 conspiracy theories, and the evidence that disputes them. Wikipedia has created a special team of 150 editors with health and science expertise carefully watching for people adding conspiracy theories to the online encyclopedia.

But many of us feel a responsibility to add in another layer of fact-checking when those conversations take place offline among family members. It can be complicated to shut down conspiracy theories, especially if you’re quarantining with someone who believes them.

Here are some tips on how to push back on conspiracy theories your family is sharing.

People turn to conspiracy theories to explain what’s going in uncertain times

Throughout history, people have turned to conspiracy theories in times of great uncertainty and stress. Belief in conspiracy theories is fueled by “a lack of certainty and a loss of control,” says Joanne Miller, an associate professor at the University of Delaware who has studied conspiracy theories.

“Clearly during a pandemic many of us are facing uncertainties about our jobs, our kids, school, everything, and it’s only natural for us to try to explain the event.”

People turn to conspiracy theories to explain what’s going on.

“Believing that the coronavirus is being spread by 5G towers actually gives us a little bit of control because there’s something to fight against,” Miller said. “Having a villain is more comforting than saying this is a naturally occurring virus that is spreading, and we don’t know how to stop it.”

But believing conspiracy theories has a cost.

One doctor treating COVID-19 patients told NBC News that dealing with conspiracy theorists who believed that the effects of COVID-19 had been exaggerated by the media was the “second-most-painful thing I’ve had to deal with, other than separation of families from their loved one.”

The first thing to do is think about where the conspiracy theory is coming from

“When talking to friends and family member, you should always try to first understand the root of what they believe,” the therapist Weena Cullins told Insider. “People are scared. And conspiracy theories are usually motivated by fear.”

Try to shift the conversation to the root of the issue instead of the details of the theory. “Talk about their fears and concerns instead of getting into the finer details that neither will agree on,” Cullins said.

Then consider who is sharing the theory. “Think about is this somebody who has functioned in the family as a kind of bully or an antagonist, or is it someone just sharing something they saw online,” the psychotherapist Matt Lundquist of Tribeca Therapy told Insider. “I urge people to start by being suspicious and to say wait a minute, are we talking about an issue or is this person looking for a fight.”

Lundquist says in some cases it is best not to engage at all. “You can say, we’re better off not talking about politics and cut it off,” he said. “If somebody thinks that a bunch of global public-health officials are involved in some big conspiracy, you’re not going to have a reasonable conversation with that person.”

Ask for explicit consent when engaging in a discussion

If it is someone you have a loving relationship with, Lundquist says, the first thing you need to do is ask for explicit consent.

You can say something like: “You’re mentioning something that may not be true. Are you open to me sharing an opposing viewpoint that might bring some clarity to the issue?” Then the other person has to decide whether they want to engage in the conversation.

If they agree to a conversation, start by asking for more facts. “Ask your loved one, what steps can you take to get more evidence to support the claims that you’re putting out there,” Cullins suggests.

Think about your sources

“It’s important to understand that we are living in a moment in history where credible, well-sourced facts in scientific research or news reports are not meaningful to lots of people,” Lundquist said. That means it isn’t enough to credibly debunk a conspiracy theory; you have to use sources the person you’re talking to won’t reject.

In fact, Miller says that if, for example, you are talking to whose beliefs align more with the Republican Party, it is better to refer to conservative outlets’ debunking of a conspiracy theory, rather than an outlet they may distrust.

“Research has shown that if the debunking comes from an unlikely source in that partisan way, it can be more effective,” Miller said. “Don’t cite sources that people don’t trust.”

Your tune should be calm and removed

“What we know doesn’t work is ridicule,” Miller said. “Ridicule only pushes people into further and further into an information bubble with people like them.”

She recommends fact-based arguments instead and for people to never use the term conspiracy theory in a discussion, because it’s seen as insulting.

“When talking to someone you love, the tone should be a kind of loving curiosity,” Lundquist said. “If it’s somebody who is taking a more ‘I know the truth’ posture, I think a more intellectual tone is the way to go.”

“The golden rule is absolutely at play here,” Cullins said. “Speak to others the way you want to be spoken to. And no matter how out there you believe their theories are, you have to treat them the way you would want someone to treat you in a conversation.”

If you find you’re going in circles, it’s time to end the conversation

Lundquist has a “rule of threes.”

The first time you try to discuss something, you can give a medium to long version of your spiel, said with generosity and backed up with facts. The second time you discuss it, you give them the shorter version of that and encourage people to take a second look at the facts. The third time, acknowledge you may not be on the same page and let it go.

“There’s a certain point where if you keep trying to convince a crazy person that they’re crazy, you become the crazy person,” Lundquist said. “If your heart rate is starting to rise, if you’re starting to get angry and worked up, it’s time to stop.”

You aren’t obligated to debunk every conspiracy theory

Miller recently collected some data, in which 3,000 American adults were asked about 11 COVID-19 conspiracy theories. Miller found that people who believed in one conspiracy theory were likely to believe in four or five more and that these conspiracy theories fit into an overall belief system.

“That means debunking any individual conspiracy isn’t likely to be all that effective for people for whom this whole belief system is serving as a response to the lack of control,” Miller said. “It’s like playing whack-a-mole, where you try to knock down one but then another one pops up.”

What that means is that sometimes debunking conspiracy theories isn’t useful, or helpful, and what might be more useful is preserving your mental health.

“It’s OK if you don’t really have the capacity to debate this at all,” Lundquist said. “Live to fight another day, choose a different battle.”

How to convince your family to turn off the television

Talk to Your Family

Explain to your kids that it’s important to sit less and move more in order to stay at a healthy weight. Tell them they’ll also have more energy, and it will help them develop and/or perfect new skills, such as riding a bike or shooting hoops, that could lead to more fun with friends. Tell them you’ll do the same.

Set a Good Example

You need to be a good role model and limit your screen time to no more than two hours per day, too. If your kids see you following your own rules, then they’ll be more likely to do the same.

Log Screen Time vs. Active Time

Start tracking how much time your family spends in front of a screen, including things like TV- and DVD-watching, playing video games, and using the computer for something other than school or work. Then take a look at how much physical activity they get. That way you’ll get a sense of what changes need to be made. Use the Screen Time Chart (141 KB) to do it.

Make Screen Time = Active Time

When you do spend time in front of the screen, do something active. Stretch, do yoga and/or lift weights. Or, challenge the family to see who can do the most push-ups, jumping jacks, or leg lifts during TV commercial breaks.

Set Screen Time Limits

Create a house rule that limits screen time to two hours every day. More importantly, enforce the rule.

Create Screen-free Bedrooms

Don’t put a TV or computer in your child’s bedroom. Kids who have TVs in their room tend to watch about 1.5 hours more TV a day than those that don’t. Plus, it keeps them in their room instead of spending time with the rest of the family.

Make Meal Time = Family Time

Turn off the TV during meals. Better yet, remove the TV from the eating area if you have one there. Family meals are a good time to talk to each other. Research shows that families who eat together tend to eat more nutritious meals. Make eating together a priority and schedule family meals at least two to three times a week.

Provide Other Options

Watching TV can become a habit, making it easy to forget what else is out there. Give your kids ideas and/or alternatives, such as playing outside, getting a new hobby, or learning a sport. See more tips for getting physically active.

Don’t Use TV Time as Reward or Punishment

Practices like this make TV seem even more important to children.

Understand TV Ads & Placements

Seeing snack foods, candy, soda, and fast food on television affects all of us, especially kids. Help your child understand that because it’s on TV—or your favorite TV characters/actors eat or drink it—doesn’t mean a food or drink is good for you. Get your kids to think about why their favorite cartoon character is trying to get them to eat a certain brand of breakfast cereal.

Kids need at least 60 minutes of physical activity on most if not all days of the week.

Reduce Screen Time Tools and Resources
Information and materials to help families and communities reduce screen time

Healthy Adventure Infographic (572 KB PDF)
Tips on ways you and your family can get healthy together

How to convince your family to turn off the television

Inside: As parents, we know we should limit screen time for our kids, but how? Here’s a simple trick that works. Bonus: You’ll end up with a happier kid, too.

Confession: I use the iPad as a babysitter.

When I’m trying to get my toddler down for a nap, or I need to pay the bills, or we’re on a road trip – I give my 6-year-old Abby the iPad for a while. We haven’t been officially limiting screen time because we felt like her media diet was at a healthy level.

Then last year, we noticed a disturbing phenomenon when Abby’s done with screen time, whether she plays with apps for 5 minutes or 45 minutes.

She turns into a zombie. A cranky zombie.

She whines. She pouts. Sometimes she throws full-on temper tantrums.

But that’s not even the worst part.

On road trips, one of Abby’s favorite ways to pass the time is for us to give her math word problems to solve. Like this: “Suppose you had 10 pieces of cake for your birthday party, but before the party starts your stressed-out mom eats 3 pieces. How many pieces of cake are left?”

The kid eats that stuff up. She loves it so much that I put together a road trip experiment for her, complete with math problems and charts.

Then on a road trip last year, we noticed that after Abby had some screen time, she was completely incapable of solving even the simplest math problem we gave her. It’s like her brain stopped working.

Bonus: Get a free worksheet that will help you limit screen time.

What’s a Mom to Do?

The fact that even a little bit of screen time can make my child’s brain shut down? It creeped me out.

And then I saw an article about how Steve Jobs and other high-tech executives severely limited screen time for their own kids. I wondered: What information do they have access to that the general public doesn’t?

I don’t know the answer to that, but I do know that when my kid gets too much screen time, she’s absolutely no fun to be around. As it turns out, the research shows that when you limit kids’ screen time, kids behave better, get more sleep, and score better on tests at school. Plus, kids who don’t spend every waking minute glued to a screen are much better at reading human emotions.

Still, I get a little panicky at the thought of going cold turkey with screen time for my kids. It’s super useful in a pinch.

We were already following most of the advice I found about limiting screen time for kids. I’d have to get a little creative.

How to Limit Screen Time – And Get a Happier Kid

One day, I sat down with the iPad when Abby was busy in her room. And that’s when I realized our innocuous little tablet was loaded up with nearly a hundred kids’ apps.

At night, I’m pretty sure the apps get together and multiply like the little brain-sucking Gremlins that they are.

In that moment, I decided to do three things:

  1. Clean up.
  2. Set a limit.
  3. Explain why.

“Abby,” I called. “Can you come down here?”

She came down the stairs and stood in front of me on the couch. “What?”

“I want to clean up the iPad a little. We have so many apps installed, I’m afraid we’re going to run out of room for new movies.” I knew that would get her – she’d watch movies 24-7 if I let her.

She sat down next to me.

“I’ll point to an app, and you tell me whether it’s fun. If not, we’ll just take it off.”

We cleared off quite a few that way, but I wasn’t done.

“Alright, our next step is to organize the apps we have left. Have you ever noticed that some apps use your brain more, like if you have to do math problems or read a story?”

“So we’re going to put those apps in a folder called Brain Food. Everything else, we’ll put in a folder called Junk Food. What do you know about junk food?”

“Um,” she said. “You’re not supposed to have it very often?”

“Totally right. Because it’s not good for your body, right?”

She shook her head. She looked a little scared about where this was going.

“These apps are the same. The Brain Food apps are a good workout for your brain muscle. But the Junk Food apps – you shouldn’t be using those very often because they’re not good for your brain.”

Moment of Truth

I made the two folders and handed the iPad to Abby. “You can tell me which folder you think each app should go in, and we’ll talk about it if I have a different opinion.”

After a few, she got the hang of it.

How to convince your family to turn off the television

Next Steps

Next, I needed to set a limit and explain why.

“Have you ever noticed that sometimes after you use the iPad for a while, you feel grumpy?”

She looked down at her lap. “Yeah.”

“I think it’s because you’re getting too much Junk Food. Let’s come up with a rule for when you use Junk Food apps. It should be a special time that doesn’t happen very often.”

We settled on road trips, and that’s it.

But still, I wasn’t done.

I wanted a time limit for regular everyday use.

I showed her how to use the built-in Timer app and set it to 20 minutes.

We already have a rule that she has to ask before sitting down with the iPad, but now she can use it for only 20 minutes and then she has to stop and do something else.

But Did It Work?

Ever since we organized the kids’ apps into Brain Food and Junk Food and set the 20-minute limit, Abby’s mood has stopped taking a downturn after screen time.

In fact, she used to ask to use the iPad every weekend day and even some weekdays after school.

Last weekend, she didn’t ask to use the iPad once.

But do you know what she did ask for? Math word problems.

A Free Worksheet to Help You and Your Child

This post includes a free printable worksheet your kid can use to decide which of her apps are Brain Food or Junk Food. (See below for the link to download it.)

Let her take the first pass, then you can go over the list together and tweak as necessary.

Here’s a sneak peek of the worksheet.

How to convince your family to turn off the television

Get Your Free Printable

  1. Get the worksheet. You’ll get the printable, plus join my weekly newsletter! Just click here to get it and subscribe.
  2. Print. Any paper will do the trick, but card stock † would be ideal.
  3. Set your child up to fill out the worksheet, then go over her picks together.

† This site is reader-supported. When you buy through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Before you go, get my FREE cheat sheet: 75 Positive Phrases Every Child Needs to Hear

Want More?

Your Turn

How do you limit screen time in your house? Share your tip in a comment below!

How to convince your family to turn off the television

If you consider films like Rebecca, Citizen Kane or All About Eve to be cinematic masterpieces, you’re not alone. All three were born during Hollywood’s Golden Age, a wildly creative era in which movies dominated mass entertainment and their glamorous stars entranced the public.

But during the 1940s and 1950s, that success suddenly evaporated. Movie palaces shuttered, once mighty studios closed down and some of Hollywood’s greatest actors, directors and screenwriters stopped making films. It was the end of an era and television was to blame: the new technology effectively killed Hollywood’s Golden Age.

These days, you’re much more likely to turn on your television than to head to a movie theater. Here’s how TV captivated American audiences—and upended just about everything about the movie business along the way.

Though historians can’t agree on the exact years of Hollywood’s so-called Golden Age, the years 1930 through 1945 were particularly good for moviemaking. Hollywood glittered not just with profit, but with popular stars and brilliant filmmakers. In those 15 years, more than 7,500 features were released and the number of Americans who watched at least one movie in a theater per week swelled to more than 80 million. It was the best of times—and beloved movies like The Wizard of Oz, It’s a Wonderful Life, Casablanca, King Kong and Gone With the Wind are proof of the creative genius unleashed by those stable years.

How to convince your family to turn off the television

Billie Burke as Glinda the Good Witch and Judy Garland as Dorothy in a scene from ‘The Wizard Of Oz’, 1939. (Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Getty Images)

Part of the winning formula had to do with the studio system. On the lots of the “big eight” studios (20th Century Fox, Columbia Pictures, MGM, Paramount Pictures, RKO Radio Pictures, United Artists, Universal Studios and Warner Bros.), pools of incomparable acting talent on long-term contracts and hordes of talented artisans helped turn screenplays into vivid films. Since studios were so profitable (in part due to their iron grip on movie distribution), they could afford to gamble on creative writing and art direction. And their careful management of actors’ personal and professional lives meant they had plenty of beloved movie stars.

But as the good years wore on, movies developed a potentially destructive rival: TV. By the 1930s, technological leaps and a series of high-profile experimental broadcasts made it clear that one day television would be broadcast directly into people’s homes. Though a few stations with experimental licenses began broadcasting things like baseball games and early news programs in New York in 1939, television sets were expensive and programming limited. When World War II began, materials shortages halted the expansion of TV in the United States. The threat had been put off—momentarily.

Then the war ended, and social changes turned a trickle of demand for television into a tidal wave. Americans had scrimped and saved since the Great Depression, and when men returned home from war, many families were ready to start spending. Often, their first purchase—with assistance from federal home loans—was a house in the suburbs. Between 1947 and 1953, the number of people living in suburbs grew 43 percent. Since these newly built areas weren’t close to downtown movie palaces and often lacked mass transportation options, people began to seek entertainment inside their homes.