The two things that parents can do to curb tweens' screen time – according to research, they are the 'most effective'

Restricting your pre-teen's screen time is important, but you should set a good example, too.

A mother and daughter both looking at their smartphones
(Image credit: Alamy)

It might feel like you’re fighting a losing battle over screen time, but there are two easy things that parents can do. 

Would your pre-teens spend all day, every day on screens if you let them? While there are benefits of screen time, too much of it can affect your child’s development, so it’s important to put some limits in place. If you’re concerned, however, there are some 'easy' things that you can do to reduce kids' screen time

According to new research from UC San Francisco (UCSF), published in Pediatric Research, there are two practices that help reduce screen time...

  • restricting screens in bedrooms and at mealtimes
  •  modelling healthy behaviours at home

Researchers asked children aged 12 and 13 how often they used screens for gaming, keeping in touch with friends, watching videos, and browsing the internet – essentially, for everything other than school – and asked them whether their screen use was problematic. 

They then asked parents how they used their own screens in front of their children, how they regulated their kids’ screen time, and whether they used it to reward or punish them, They also asked the parents whether the family used screens at mealtimes and in the bedroom – both linked to higher levels of screen time, as well as addictive use.

However, when parents monitored and limited screen time, and modelled healthy screen use themselves, their tweens’ screen time went down. Dr. Jason Nagata, the study’s author and a paediatrician at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals, said, “These results are heartening because they give parents some concrete strategies they can use with their tweens and young teens: set screen time limits, keep track of your kids' screen use, and avoid screens in bedrooms and at mealtimes. Also, try to practice what you preach." 

So far, there haven’t been many studies looking at how parenting impacts screen use in early adolescence, as children begin to become more independent. As Dr. Nagata explains, per Medical Xpress, “We wanted to look at young adolescents in particular, because they are at a stage when mobile phone and social media use often ramps up and sets the course for future habits.”

In related news, this mum divided the internet with her screen time tip, and research reveals how parents and teens approach screen time. Two-thirds of parents notice negative effects of screen time on their children, too, while here are nine ways your phone addiction is affecting your children.

Freelance writer

Adam is an experienced writer who regularly covers the royal family and celebrity news for the likes of Goodto, The List, The Metro, and Entertainment Daily. However, you can also find Adam covering relationships, mental health, pet care, and contributing to titles such as Creative Bloq.