February 21, 2019


Ever tried to pry a tablet from sticky fingers and had a huge battle on your hands? Check out these tips to avoid the tantrum.

“Just a sec,” say nine out of 10 parents answering an email when their kid asks them for something. If it’s hard for us to jump out of the digital world, just imagine you’re 3 and the lines between fantasy and reality are already blurred — then throw in a super-engaging, colorful, fun, immersive experience. Or you’re 5 and each episode of Mutt & Stuff on the Nick Jr. app is better than the last. Or you’re 8 and you’re almost finished building something amazing in Minecraft. Why would you ever want to stop?

This is why getting kids off their devices is so tough. And when threatening doesn’t work, and you discover the research that two-minute warnings aren’t the best option either, what can you do?

Thankfully, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has some new guidelines around screen use that ease some parental guilt, but you still need to get your kid off the iPad at some point. Aside from being a strong role model, try these tips to minimize conflict and find the balance we’re all seeking.

  1. Have another activity lined up (bonus points for making it seem fun). For the youngest device users, transitions are hard — period. Even if the next “to do” is a “must do” (such as eating lunch), tell your kid what’s coming next. You can rehearse the process: “When I say stop, it’s time for the iPad to go night-night. Let’s see how fast you can flip it shut! As soon as it’s asleep, we can sneak into the other room and paint.”
  2. Use visual and sound cues to help kids keep track of time limits. For kids who don’t yet know how to tell time, try a timer that can help put them in charge of the process: “When the time is up, it’ll look and sound like this.”
  3. Find apps with built-in timers. Video streamers like Cakey and Huvi throw parents a bone and have internal timers so the app stops on its own. Then it’s up to the parent to make sure kiddo doesn’t just jump into another app.
  4. Tell kids to stop at a natural break, such as the end of an episode, level, or activity. It’s hard for kids (and adults!) to stop in the middle of something. Before your kid gets on a device, talk about what they want to do or play, what will be a good place to stop, and how long they think it’ll take. Set the limit together and hold to it, though a little wiggle room (a couple of minutes so they can finish) is fine.
  5. Discuss consequences and follow through when kids test the limits. When all else fails, it’s important to have discussed consequences for when your kid won’t give it up. For little kids, the line can be something like, “If it’s too hard to turn off, the tablet has to go away for a whole day.” For older kids it’s more about keeping devices in a public space, setting expectations, and enforcing them. If they show you they can be partners in moderating and regulating themselves, there can be more flexibility.

This post originally appeared on Common sense media.


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  • My Grandmother always said to “Start as you mean to go on” and that saying has stood me in good stead. Think carefully about what rules you want and enforce them straight away adn then there are no issues as part of the rules are if you break the rules then the devices are taken away for 24hrs. If there is a tantrum then they go away for longer and the longer the fuss the longer there are no devices. As the adult you must never give in.


  • Awesome advice. I’m lucky with my kids, they usually have a break on their own accord to draw or do something else.


  • Definitely enforce a time limit, cheers.


  • From past experiences I find the best way of dealing with it is not to give it to them in the first place. It is so quickly addictive,,, for all of us sadly.


  • I frequently try sitting with the kids when its close to the end of the time- show interest in what they’ve been learning, let them get used to my presence, remind them of their time limit (2 mins left or end of this level) and stick to that limit. Always praise when they’ve moved to the next task happily and consequences if they didn’t. The newest challenge I have now is a teenager learning limits between online school work and fun screen time.


  • Another tip, dont give it to them in the first place :’D

    Our 3 year old only watches tv, and it’s the same time everyday, my daughters (and sometimes baby) nap time. Because we do the same thing most days, he knows whats happening, tv while sister sleeps and the we turn it off. :) No tantrums! And if he doesn’t turn it off, it’s no afternoon snack for him. So he always chooses to turn it off.


  • Shouldn’t be an issue for those parents who are in control. Definitely not and issue for my kids, only screen back then was the tv


  • We also have clear and consistent guidelines on screen use.


  • Apple now has parental controls so you can lock kids out of apps after a set period of time


  • I always think it’s good to set boundaries or guidelines before they get off the device, then give 5 minute warning before you want them to get off it.


  • Have never had a problem – there was a set time limit before bed and all devices had to be turned off 15 minutes before bed time so we could all talk to each other.


  • Some wonderful ideas I really like the discussion before the child uses it and going to look into the apps that have automatic timers thanks


  • The main idea is to manage expectations. If a child is given ‘free reign’ with a device, of course they will complain when it is time to stop. A clear time limit needs to be given in advance, the child needs to repeat this back to you before starting. Then the child must stop at the time limit. If they are given extra time, they will try to get extra time every time thereafter. Parents must be vigilant.


  • Some great ideas here. Timers are great – particularly when you agree before the timer starts (just make sure they’re not clever enough or have access to the timer to change it!). I use timers for doing jobs I dont enjoy like cleaning and ironing – if I set a timer I work hard for the allocated time knowing that I have permission to stop when it goes off! It certainly focuses the mind.


  • Good tips, we use most of them.


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