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Reduce Teen Screen Time and Promote Exercise without a Fight

Middle-aged couple and teenager playing with soccer ballIt’s not easy to be an adolescent in today’s technologically saturated world. Being immersed in technology provides many distractions for teens that sometimes interfere with homework, physical activity, and engaging face-to-face with other teens. Some teens spend an average of more than seven and a half hours each day using technology to consume various media (2013), which means many young people today may be relatively physically inactive and, therefore, less physically fit. Even if a teen seems unaffected by a sedentary lifestyle, being more physically active will enhance their learning, sleep patterns, and overall well-being.

What can parents do to limit screen time and encourage more physical activity without fighting with their teens? Here are six of my suggestions:

1. Walk the Walk

Parents need to be mindful of how much time they are spending immersed in technology. Walk the walk if you want to set a positive example for your teen. If certain rules about screen time are made, parents should follow them as well.

2. Provide Reminders

Parents need to gently remind teens to limit their time in front of the screen. Today’s children are born into a digital world and may not have a tendency to monitor their own screen time. Remind your children from time to time that there is an unplugged world waiting for them.

3. Encourage More Physical Activity

Get involved with helping your children select activities that promote movement. Teens may be more motivated to try out a new sport if they are part of choosing which activities they participate in. In addition, screen time can be used to get teens moving by using exercise videos and exercise video games. An advantage of using technology for exercise is that the whole family can get involved and sometimes even compete against each other.

4. Promote Activities That Require Socializing

Studies (2012) are starting to reveal how devices such as mobile phones are beginning to affect our interpersonal relationships. Many of the results aren’t positive. In light of this, parents should encourage teens to participate in clubs and other activities that engage teens socially and develop in-person communication skills.

5. Create Screen Time Rules Together

I have found that teens have a tendency to “buy in” if they have a voice in creating rules, whether it’s around the usage of technology or something else. Parents and teens can collaborate to write up agreed-upon house rules (and consequences for not following them). Some examples of house rules might include:

  • Studies (2012) are starting to reveal how devices such as mobile phones are beginning to affect our interpersonal relationships. Many of the results aren’t positive. In light of this, parents should encourage teens to participate in clubs and other activities that engage teens socially and develop in-person communication skills.During meals, no texting is allowed.
  • The television is turned off during meal time.
  • All chores and homework must be done before playing video games, texting, time on the computer (aside from homework), and TV time. Screen time is a privilege.
  • The TV is turned off at certain times each night.
  • No TVs allowed in bedrooms.
  • Teens cannot take their cell phones into their bedrooms at bedtime.
  • Computers are used only in “public” rooms in the house.
  • The family will have a screen-free day monthly or weekly.

6. Talk about Technology

Based on my experience, teens are less likely to buy in if the rules do not make sense to them. Parents should educate and inform teens about the consequences of not being physically active. Kids are smart, so providing credible information can help teens understand that their parents really do have their best interest at heart. This can also be an opportunity to teach teens about recognizing and understanding the negative impact of propaganda, which is often used to manipulate teens into adapting a belief that fits an advertiser’s agenda. Teach them how to spot a half-truth, distorted fact, or cherry-picked information. It can help them see through some of the many damaging messages they will receive.

Talking with your teens about technology will also help you stay informed about the information your teen is accessing and the level of vulnerability (such as bullying online) involved. The best way for parents to take on the task of limiting screen time with their teens is to keep the communication lines open and to provide healthy and interesting alternatives to limit screen exposure.


  1. Ahuja, M. (2013, March 13). Teens are spending more time consuming media, on mobile devices. The Washington Post. Retrieved from
  2. Kotz, D. and Haupt, A. (2012, March 7). 7 mind-blowing benefits of exercise. U.S. News and World Report. Retrieved from
  3. Lin, H. L. (2012 September 4). How your cell phone hurts your relationships. Scientific American. Retrieved from

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The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Eva

    October 4th, 2015 at 9:01 AM

    Not too sure where we all went wrong with all of this. It is like we have taken everything that could potentially be good about learning new things online and we have to gone to the extreme. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing to find new things to learn and see online, but where we have gone wrong is that we have allowed that to interfere with our time together as families and our time that we once dedicated to getting out and getting moving.

  • Jake

    October 5th, 2015 at 8:13 AM

    for our younger kiddos, screen time is definitely a reward, and not the norm

  • Paige P

    October 6th, 2015 at 8:02 AM

    I always knew that my kids would emulate everything that I say and do but it hit me hard when I saw that they were using their phones and tablets like I do too. How can I preach to them to have good manners etc when I am just as guilty of those bad habits as they were? And they were because of me! So now we have implemented screen free zones in the house as well as times that no matter what is going on, it is gonna be family time without the devices and that’s just the way it is. I know that there have to be times when we are all kinda frustrated with it, but then there are other times when you think, wow, I am so lucky to have this great family of mine. I think that stepping away from those things helps you appreciate the ones you love even more.

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