A Five-Step Screen Withdrawal Process

Your child is planted in front of the TV and you’ve earned yourself 21 minutes of peace and quiet, planning meals for next week, writing the grocery list, taking out the trash and transferring the laundry. Meanwhile, your child’s eyes are beginning to glaze over in a zombie-like state and he didn’t even notice when his older brother sat on the couch next to him, on top of his favorite stuffed puppy dog.

Yet, as soon as you click off the TV, your son erupts into a tantrum so loud, you’re sure the entire neighborhood can hear it. “So much for any fresh air,” you mumble under your breath, closing the living room window. The dinner you spent so much time preparing is going to be cold, knowing it takes at least 15 minutes for the little guy to calm down enough to sit at the table and begrudgingly eat his mashed potatoes, peas and fish sticks. You contemplate turning the TV back on, inviting the cast of “Paw Patrol” to have dinner with you for the second night in a row.

What do you do?

At some point in your life, you’ve probably experienced something similar to this scenario. How did you handle it? Did it work? In a world that’s consumed by televisions, laptops and mobile devices, how do we manage our children’s (and our own) use of these devices? The following suggestions are meant to stabilize your frazzled mind and give you some insight, guiding you through this journey called parenthood.

Set The Foundation

“Ok, but just this once.” Have you found yourself saying that? Do you give in when the stuffed puppy flies from the couch to the floor? Over time, when we give in and allow our children to watch one more show, to spend 10 more minutes on the iPad, to text with friends past 8 p.m. on a school night, they begin to expect this freedom. Your ability to control the situation is watered down when the boundaries begin to blur. Using devices is a privilege, not a right. You’re in charge. It’s easier to set standards early on, and stick with them, than it is to take away privileges.

Rewards & Punishments

In a perfect world, we would have all followed and enforced tip No. 1. However, if that was the case, we probably wouldn’t be reading this article. So, what do you do when your child has prioritized the iPad and is neglecting to do his or her homework, to put their shoes away or to answer the question you’ve asked five times? To raise responsible children, we must encourage them to be responsible. This means giving them responsibility. Assign age-appropriate household chores like emptying the dishwasher, setting the table and folding clean towels. Devices shouldn’t be necessarily “taken away” as punishment; rather losing device privileges should be a natural consequence when your child neglects homework or chores.

Keep Toys and Games In Their Own Space

While our toy room and living room (with the TV) are right next to each other, I’ve noticed plenty of times when my 5-year-old stepson is playing and ignoring the TV.  Netflix will check in and ask if we’re “still watching” a show that he forgot about 20 minutes ago. Kids want to play. Turn off the TV, turn on some music, or tune out the noise and tune in to the conversations your child has with his or her toys. It’s quite endearing.

Create Opportunities for Creativity

You can also make the toy room more inviting by turning it into a project room. Not only should there be toys, but by including a variety of materials, kids are invited to create and use their imagination. My stepson LOVES making projects. He could spend an entire day with a cardboard box, an empty water bottle, tape and pipe cleaners. Keep a supply of construction paper and cotton balls handy. They don’t even feel like they’re missing out on anything, especially when you join them. I suggest having an extra roll of tape that’s hidden, so when you go to look for the one that went missing, you won’t later find out your son used the last of it to tape two paper plates together.

Designate When To Go Device-Free

It’s important to set limits. It’s also important to set an example. Setting a timer? That may work as well. If your child struggles to accept that TV time is over or that it’s his brother’s turn to use the iPad, consider using the timer feature on your phone. A friend of ours does this with his kids and says it has worked wonders. This way he’s not the “bad guy.” The negativity the kids feel is toward the timer, not you. And while we all struggle to find the balance between work and play, it is important that we set an example and settle for tub time sing alongs rather than tweets and retweets.

Here are some of my suggestions for when to go device-free:

  • – At the dinner table
  • – Every Sunday
  • – While riding in the car
  • – When company is over
  • – After bath time
  • – During play time outside


With all of these tips and suggestions, we hope you feel better equipped to handle the stress of deterring your children from their devices. Keep in mind, children want to feel respected and understood. Provide them with opportunities to express themselves and be responsible.

Focus on everything they can do and all of the places they can go. Outside! To the park! To a campground in the forest made from a bed sheet draped over the kitchen table! The real power isn’t in a fully charged iPad, it’s in the connections you make and the experiences you share with your child.

YouTube link: https://youtu.be/wPmr0Juxzo0

— Megan Meisner

My name is Megan Meisner. When I was in high school, overweight and inactive. After joining my first gym in 1997 and making changes to my lifestyle, the extra weight dropped and my commitment to health and wellness continued to grow. Megan Meisner Fitness emphasizes Activity, Nutrition and Restoration. In a world that overwhelms us with diet plans, new workout routines and the latest “stress-busting, abs-lusting” claims, our community will help you silence the distractions and focus on mindfulness, self awareness and support to reach your goals. The emphasis is on progression, not perfection.  I have been a certified personal trainer and fitness instructor for over 10 years. My emphasis is on fitness for moms and youth.

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