First of all, there are certain times of day and night that should be no-phone time, no matter what. School hours, family dinner, bedtimes, and any other structured times where kids need to focus and don’t need any more distractions should be strictly phone-free.
Another point to consider is screen time means all screens, not just phones. Laptops, television, game consoles, and other screens need to be included in with the phone.
It’s generally recommended by pediatricians and others that very young children be largely kept away from screens of all types. Up to one hour of screen time is fine, but it should be carefully curated by parents and done under their close supervision, with a view to educational, age-appropriate content.
As kids get older, you can loosen up the rules, slightly, but you should still keep overall screen time at two hours or under, according to experts. They also don’t recommend issuing kids a smartphone. If safety or contact is a concern, kids on the older end of this range can be given a flip-phone with no internet access.
Also important is content monitoring. This is the age when marketing machines and abusive app and game design really kicks into overdrive, which can hook self-aware adults, not just kids. Parents should know exactly what apps kids want to download and how they work. Parental control software can be invaluable in this situation.
Thirteen is around the age many parents give their children their own smartphone, but this should be treated on a case by case basis. Ask yourself what your child needs the phone for, and set some rules about what can and can’t be found on the phone, paired with reasonable punishments for breaking the rules. The two-hour time limit should largely remain in place, but more mature kids may be able to “earn” time in front of a game console or a phone by doing chores or completing homework.
15 And Older
This is the grey area, for many parents. Their teens are getting driver’s licenses, holding down jobs, applying to college, and are transitioning to adults who can make their own decisions. Again, there will be some degree of judgment call here; how mature is your teen? Limits should still be in place, but you can begin relaxing them if you find your concern is lessening. Make sure to talk with teens about who they’re speaking with and what they’re doing online, though, and keep an eye out for cyberbullying.
There is some degree of leeway, here, and we shouldn’t forget screens are good in some respects. Kids can explore all sorts of scientific and artistic realms that were formerly difficult for them. So treat these as guidelines, while making sure you’re the one who makes these calls. To learn more about how to enforce the rules, sign up for Screen Time.