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How to end screen time well

Jude Avatar Kids MatterJude, Kids Matter Supervisor and Facilitator, chats about how she’s learnt to end screen time well with her own children…

Picture the scene – you’re at the cinema completely immersed in your movie when suddenly all the lights are switched on and the manager announces that it’s time to leave NOW! The movie is switched off, the lights go up and you are turfed out of the screen. Imagine your frustration, your outrage and indignation! I bet you’d give the manager a piece of your mind, right?

Now clearly this wouldn’t happen in real life but it’s not dissimilar to what I expect of my children each night when I yell ‘DINNER’S READY’ and then about a minute later (because I’m never very good at timings) expect them to appear at the table sunny and ready to eat…

The afternoon hour before tea is a classic moment for kids’ screen time but how many of us as parents find it horrible to try and get them back from their tablets, the TV screen or game they’re playing? We regularly see tears, screams, tantrums and major meltdowns just in the transition between screen and family life.

Here are some tips which I’ve been trying out over the last few days:

1. Giving a time frame – ‘in five minutes’, ‘at the end of this episode’, ‘when you next lose your life’.

2. Sitting with our children for the last few minutes and watching with them or engaging in what they’re playing to help bridge the gap back into the real world. Another tip (if you’re not transitioning to meal times) is to suggest an alternative activity like going outside in the garden or drawing a picture to help your child not feel frustrated about having to end
screen time.

OK, so I found number 1 helpful but for me number 2 – sitting down with them and joining them in the screen time – was a total game-changer! I sat down with my eldest (9) and asked what she was watching and she LOVED telling me all about the programme. I listened and then asked a question, and her transition out of screen time was so so different to normal!

I tried it again with my youngest (7) who was completely engrossed in Mario. Although he didn’t take his eyes off the screen I asked some questions – what’s that acorn thing? what does that do? Again, he loved telling me about acorn powers. I was able to watch and as he lost a life, I told him it was time to stop and there were NO tears!!

Amazing scenes in this house – it took more time from me but the difference was worth it. Give it a try and see if you see a change in ending screen time!

If you’d like to find out more about Kids Matter or would like to get involved, as a volunteer or by financially supporting our programme, please contact us at And for more on our IMPACT, click here.

Photo by Patricia Prudente on Unsplash

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