Sarah Carter Studio » artist | photographer | writer | advocate

Screen Time: The New Wild West

Okay, this post is all about screen time. I have been surprised at how ill-equipped I find myself as we navigate this issue. What screens (and technology) bring to our world is AMAZING and exciting and we’re the luckiest to be able to witness it. It also feels like a grand social experiment, this undeveloped wild west frontier, and we’re the pioneers charting the way. I think its one of the most impactful and important challenges of our day as it relates to parenting and also ourselves more generally in society.

I actually made myself take an extended break from all social media last year, partly because I needed to recalibrate and get clear on why I was using it, but also because the habit I had formed was scary. It was the first thing I checked in the morning and the last thing I looked at every night. I would pick up my phone if there was a lag of more than five minutes, I’d pick it up if I found myself early to a meeting, more comfortable staring at a screen then I was to sit alone, eyes up and taking in my surroundings. I had become addicted.

Moreover, I noticed these same tendencies springing up in my kids. Not with social media, as we still have those boundaries in place (they are 5 and 9) but with apps and games and shows. It was their ultimate motivator, our primary competition for attention, and instrumental in breaking down relational connections. I was watching my family drift into a very uncharted sea of screens and it was terrifying because I realized, I actually don’t have a map for this.


Can you relate?


Brace yourselves, it’s about to get real elderly up in here because, KIDS THESE DAYS: I didn’t grow up with access to the technology that my kids have, and my generation still viewed computer time as a luxury, a privilege, something we earned if we finished our work early at school (shout out to The Oregon Trail in the computer lab!) Even still, I have so naturally found myself just as drawn to screens as my kids who have never known anything different. The American Academy of Pediatrics, The White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity, and others recommend discouraging any screen time for children under the age of two, and less than two hours a day of educational programming for older children. And yet, The American Academy of Pediatrics cites that typical kid screen time is seven hours: yes, you heard that right, modern children use screens SEVEN hours per day. The typical child is watching about 4.5 hours of television before age 5, which is about 40% of their wakeful time.

What is this doing to their brains? How is it affecting their development, their social relationships, their health, their energy? This stat sheet lists brilliantly researched information if you want all the details, but suffice it to say – not good. So I found myself sitting in the middle of the sea, desperate to find true north with no map or way to get there. I began to look for answers, for ideas, for maps and tools that could help me build a path toward balance for myself and my family. Nothing I post is ever sponsored, and I suppose I feel the need to say that before I share links to what we’ve found that is working for us. I’m not endorsing it, just disclosing it in case something here might be useful to you as well. Here are the tools I’ve enlisted for this adventure:


Circle: This system basically acts as a filter for your home wifi. You can add each family member and customize the settings to allow only content you want them to access to make it through the filter. You can also set up time limits, bedtimes, and track their usage. It has been an amazing tool for me, and one my kids sort of deal with. In a good way.

Mothershp: This is an app that works with ChoreMonster, listed below. You can add individualized chores for each kid that earn a point value you set as well as set up rewards they can earn by cashing in those points. Its been the most effective tool for enforcing chores and motivating my kids to want to get them done.

ChoreMonster: We added this to both the kids iPads (they have our hand-me-down devices) and each day, they can open it up, view their chores and begin to check them off as they complete them. Each time they do, they earn points and I get a notification on Mothershp letting me know what they’ve done. IT’S SO EASY!


This has been a great way to gently enforce the Daily Awesomeness list from my previous post, and it has helped us keep on track with how much screen time we use each day. Technology may be the Wild West, but parents, we’re still the sheriffs and – we got this. <3


share to: