Handling screen time during a pandemic

It’s no secret that Covid-19 has changed how the world works. Many areas are in lockdown to stop the spread of the virus, limiting you and your family’s activities. Often, screen time is the safest option for families and this is where the age old recommendation of “limiting your kids time with devices” goes out the freaking window.

Screen time is a lifeline

Here at NDG, we found that the time spent in front of computers, on tablets, consoles and phones is our kid’s connection to the current Covid-19 ridden world. Screen is used for many things:

  • Education: virtual school, edutainment
  • Social: chats with friends/family, FaceTime
  • Entertainment: Netflix, YouTube
  • Gaming: consoles (PlayStation, Switch, Xbox) and mobile/handhelds (3ds, iPhone, iPad)

Screen time is still a privilege

Since most of the days are filled with screen time, our kids seem to find it less of a privilege and more of something they are owed instead of earned. This has created a whole bunch of problems for parenting – how do you limit what has become a lifeline for your kids? It could even be considered a lifeline for parents by plunking kids in front of the screen to keep them distracted while you work from home, take care of a loved one, or even for your own mental health during this isolating time. The new dads have encountered specific cause/effect issues with handling screen that we can share here:

Behaviour: Trevor’s son didn’t behave well in school; YouTube time has been put on ice for a while.

Behaviour: Jeff’s kids didn’t feel like doing chores and instead wanted to watch Netflix; screen went off and chores were to be done before any restart.

Levelling up screen time

Below are some solutions that have worked for us in approaching how screen time works during Covid-19: how it is earned and kept and what behaviour is expected.

Have a conversation:

For ages 7-10, having a calm conversation, outlining expectations of screen time (how it’s earned and kept), allowed my kids to better understand the situation and contribute to the solution.

For screen time, Jeff’s kids considered the following solutions to earning and keeping screen:

“Do chores first, that is expected of being part of the family.” Yes this is a tough and isolating time for kids, but they still need to lend a hand to the every day to help out. Be flexible and do what works for your family – you know what your kids can handle and build from there. Through the conversation, Jeff’s kids just needed reminders of how they can help these days (can’t go to the grocery store) and then they came up with their own ideas (help unpack the groceries when dad brings them home).

“Behaviour is a must! You fight with your bro, screen gets the heave-ho!” Oh it’s cheesy alright, but it’s something they came up with when we were talking about expectations around behaviour. Screen is essential to this life right now (school, friends), but the entertainment part still needs to be earned by not fighting with each other or us parents. They can slip up, but they realize they just need to put effort in to admitting mistakes and resolving them.

Need variety with time limits: we needed to set aside time for certain screen (gaming, social, entertainment) and the youngest came up with a countdown timer. However, virtual school was non-negotiable and there were some exceptions to the rule with family movie night.

Certain times of the day: the oldest kid doesn’t like countdown timers as described above, so specific time blocks of the day were a better solution for him. eg Monday – Friday, after school from 4-5pm is social screen time, 7-8pm is entertainment etc, weekends were a bit more flexible, but managed in a similar way.

Google reminders: a suggestion to have calendar reminders on their iPad, laptop, mobile and/or through Google Home to remind them of their commitments (wherever they might be playing).

Console reminders: today’s consoles come with parents controls which can assist with implementing agreed upon gaming time blocks. While some are better than others (Nintendo has only global timers, whereas PlayStation can do individual accounts), it’s another welcome tool in the gaming dad toolbelt.


Let us know if these ideas worked for you, and if not, let us know what tools and tactics helped you and your family – we’d be happy to include them here so we can help more gaming dads!

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