“Can we have some screen time?”

I get this request from my daughters (ages 7 & 9) almost every afternoon. Sometimes I say yes, sometimes I say no. When I say no, sometimes my kids throw tantrums, but mostly they don’t. Mostly they find something else to do, sometimes on their own, and sometimes with a little help and prompting from me.

Here’s how we manage screen time for our kids: No screens in the mornings, during meal times, or from Friday night to Saturday night, in acknowledgment of Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath). We do flex these rules for special occasions; when the Olympics were on, they were allowed to watch during dinner. They can watch one tv show (30 minutes or shorter) 2-3 nights during the week, and sometimes they get screen time or watch a movie on Sundays. When they’re sick or we’re on a road trip or flight, they can fry their little brains as much as they want.

We’ve come to this schedule through a lot of trial and error, and right now it’s working for us. But it’s not always easy; there’s a lot of limit setting and negotiating and re-evaluating and tolerating tantrums and talking to the girls about why we limit their screen time. But it’s worth it.

Excessive screen time has been linked to obesity, disturbed sleep, behavioral issues, poor social skills, and less play time (which in itself can lead to all of those other concerns).

If you’re struggling to manage screen time in your family, know that you’re not alone. I work with many families who feel that they have lost control of the screens in their homes. They know it’s not working for them, but they’re not sure how to change it. Please don’t beat yourself up about this; we are the first generation of parents to face this challenge, and we’re making it up as we go along. Cut yourself some slack. Getting a handle on all of this isn’t easy, but it is possible.

To read all of my tips for getting your kids off their screens, head over to the full post on my Mindful Parenting blog on PsychCentral.com.