How to Nurture Healthy Screen Habits for Your Family

by | Mar 11, 2020 | Family | 12 comments

Thanks so much to Minno for sponsoring this post!

When my girls were small, they woke up at an ungodly hour of the morning every day.

Keith was working long hours as a medical resident and our apartment was tiny. So the girls watched Babe each morning (aka, “Pig and Duck”) so at least one of us could get some sleep. Figuring out the screen time rules that work best for your family is a really big task, so when Minno asked me about a sponsored post, I asked Joanna to write it up for me, since she’s a young mom who is figuring all of this out and she has a background in public health. Here’s what she’s got to share.

While we all know that screen time is best when limited (and that our kids are probably spending too much time in front of a screen), screens are also wonderful allies.

In the great Canadian winter, when we’ve already read all the books and played all the games, it is really nice to snuggle with my toddler and watch a show together. Here are five principles to keep in mind when it comes to screens, as you determine the rules that will work best for your family:

1. Screen time is awesome for connecting with family far away

We live far away from all of our family. So did my grandmother, when she was raising her 9 kids. But back then, Nanny couldn’t FaceTime her mom, instead they had a tradition where they both would drink their cup of coffee at 10 am, knowing the other was doing the same a thousand miles away.

Today, my toddler enjoys “joining” her grandfather as he sets up his bird feeder and throws frisbee with the dog. She knows that her grandmother has a stack of books she’ll be happy to read over FaceTime, and even requests favorites. It’s not the same as living down the street, but it is so much better than it used to be. We are so grateful for the gift that screen time has been to our family!

2. Kids need to play apart from screen time

The WHO (World Health Organization) recommends limiting screen time for children ages 2-4 to an hour a day (that doesn’t necessarily include social screen time like talking to family). They also note that less is more and that it’s really important to make sure children have lots of high quality, unstructured play time.

Screen time becomes a problem when it is used to avoid the natural parts of childhood or parenting. When siblings are bickering it’s easier to turn on the TV than it is to listen to them fight as they work it out, or jump in the mix and have a conversation about sharing. If your 5 year old is bored and whining at you about it, it’s easy to give them an iPad instead of making them figure out how to entertain themselves. So while screen time in and of itself is not bad, it can become a problem if it becomes an avoidance tool for the normal (and admittedly annoying) quirks and struggles of childhood.

I asked Keith for his advice about screen time, given that he’s a pediatrician, and he recommends putting together a screen time plan for your family. Here’s his advice:

Parents need to take an active role in managing their children’s use of screen time. So many resources are available to help with this through the Canadian Pediatric Society, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and other national bodies. You’ll never regret setting up a media plan for your family!

Keith Gregoire


3. You CAN be choosy about what your child watches!

It’s easy to look at kid’s TV today and think, “MAN, this is bad.” But you know what? There have been good and bad programs for as long as TV has been around! It’s your job, as a parent, to choose good for your kids!

Since screens are such an omni-present part of our lives now, some really great options have popped up lately. And one of those options that we really like is Minno. Minno is a safe streaming service for kids that has really great Christian programs that actually teach your kid about God. There are classic Veggie Tales episodes on there, and also our favourite program, What’s in the Bible?, created by the same guy who made the original Veggie Tales show.

Often when we talk about programs for kids, we ask “Does this have any dangerous or inappropriate content?” We don’t often ask ourselves, “Is this content helping my child become a better person?”

The What’s in the Bible series is truly fantastic. It actually teaches you so much about scripture–despite the fact that I memorized about half of the New Testament before I graduated from high school, I was stunned at how much I was learning from a show hosted by a puppet named Buck Denver.

I have also used the What’s in the Bible curriculum while teaching Sunday School and loved it. It was incredible to me how easily complex concepts were explained. I’m embarrassed to say that after hearing Phil describe faith in the episode on the Pauline epistles, I understood the relationship between faith and trust for the first time… ever.

I was delighted when my own daughter was old enough to start watching What’s in The Bible with me. She just turned two so to be honest, she’s still in it for the songs. A current favorite of hers is the “judges” song, which is a silly spin through the 12 judges of the eponymous book. Now, of course, she’s memorized more or less the whole thing and hearing my toddler sing about Deborah, Sampson, and the rest makes my heart happy.

That’s what we should expect of good kids’ programming. And that’s just one of the series on Minno–there’s tons more content that isn’t just “not bad,” but is actively good.

4. Your kid needs to be safe when watching movies or shows

Let’s put it out there: even “kid-friendly” apps like YouTube Kids are often not safe. It has been widely documented the pornographic, violent, or otherwise disturbing content that slips past filters every single day that millions upon millions of kids are watching.

Similarly, letting your kids simply watch something on a streaming service that also has adult content on it may lead to them watching something you really would rather they didn’t see.

And also, even when you do find something that is safe or kid-friendly, often there are a ton of advertisements that ruin the experience or mean tons of conversations about why no, you don’t need the Lego set in the commercial.

Choosing an option for screentime that is ad-free and allows you to rest easy knowing that no matter what your kid clicks on, they will find good and wholesome content can be a huge stress-relief for parents and a huge protection for kids. You can feel safe letting your kids choose any show they want to watch on Minno, which is one of the reasons we love it! You won’t have to worry about what might pop up next and there are NO commercials.

5. Make screen-time a public activity

Screen times recommendations vary, but a very important and consistent point is that parents watching WITH their children is very important. Screens often become a very isolating activity–you become all-encompassed in what you are doing and you become separate from the rest of the family. By having screen time solely in public spaces by using TVs instead of cell phones when you are at home, for example, you can keep tabs on what your kids are watching–even if you’re in the next room making dinner. (And by the way, Minno works with Roku, Chrome cast, and AppleTV, too!)

By watching shows together, you can have conversations about what you are watching. And that’s a lot less painful for the parent when the shows your kids are watching aren’t ridiculously annoying.

So that’s why we think Minno is really a great option for families who are looking to optimize their screen time and cut out the junk. The programs are high-quality and genuinely good, so mom and dad can be involved with TV watching without wanting to smash the TV. They’re a wonderful streaming platform with TONS of great programs for kids. All of the What’s in the Bible programs are there (including the spin offs), ready and waiting for your kiddos. They also have over 30 classic VeggieTales episodes, and if that’s not enough, you can check out Davey and Goliath, Bible Man, Theo, Owlgories, Torchlighters, and lots and lots more.

Minno is totally ad free and all of the programs are safe for little eyes and ears. And something really cool about it is that it isn’t just for the kids–as we move through lent and prepare for Easter, one great option with Minno is their 5 week family devotional series using What’s in the Bible to teach children about Jesus’ death and resurrection. Their curriculum is always high quality, well thought through, and willing to deal with the tricky questions of faith.

And it doesn’t break the bank, either. Especially since if you’d like to give it a try, Minno is offering To Love, Honor, and Vacuum readers a 7 day trial of their platform.

Get a 7-day free trial to check out Minno!

Minno is offering To Love, Honor, and Vacuum readers a 7-day long trial so you can check out the programs and see what you think. We’re positive you’re going to love it!

What are some of your ways of managing healthy screen time with your kids? What are some tips and tricks that have worked for you? Let us know in the comments below!

Written by

Sheila Wray Gregoire


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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Active Mom

    Screen time is an important topic and I just want to say as a parent in the US the issue of controlling screen time is even more complicated now with public (and sometimes private) schools. My kids spend almost all day during school looking at either their computer (school issued) or the teacher smart board. Then after school almost all homework is to be completed on their school computer. It’s so bad that our pediatrician used to say limit screen time to 1-2 hours a day. Now they will say limit non school screen time to 1-2 hours a day. They admit the amount the schools have kids in front of screens is not healthy. It is all in the name of teaching kids how to use new technology. My daughter was doing her homework last night and she had her computer set to the district issued search engine screen. The ad that was next to the search bar? Planned parenthood. I can’t control what comes through the school district filters. That is allowed because planned parenthood is a district approved safe website. Ugh My daughter is 13.
    The hard part is one of my kids really liked a show. She would watch it with us for about an hour a few times a week to wind down after homework was done. But, now we worry because it is one more hour her eyes are watching a screen. It is a hard issue to balance and I don’t feel like I have found a good solution yet.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      It is really difficult, isn’t it! I didn’t know about all of that computer with the schools issue. That’s difficult as well.
      I think everything just needs to be in balance. If you’re using screen time, make it something that you all enjoy and that you can talk about, but then also make sure that you have time to play board games or go for walks, etc. Don’t let screen time be your default!

  2. Ina

    Our go to is Daniel Tiger, but it is through YouTube which has me uncomfortable (they get one show a day in the afternoon, either when I’m making supper or doing dishes so I listen in on it and shut the ipad down as soon as it’s done, but I know without me right there they could click and end up somewhere I don’t want them!) This Minno sounds really neat, I am going to look into it tonight! While I do really like Daniel Tiger, I would love some Christian content for the girls!

    • LaToya

      You can use the PBS kids app to watch Daniel Tiger for free. No ads at all. And most of the kids shows are there.

      • Ina

        Does it work for Canadian ip addresses? That’s our usual problem.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Yeah, a lot of the US streaming services don’t work here. It’s a pain!

  3. Joanne

    Thanks for a balanced article on this and not just saying it is evil. I have been frustrated with some of my friends for sharing the horrors of letting your kids have screen time when I am already aware of the craziness there is out there and what it can do the kids and our family. It is stressful enough when I say to a friend “I find it so hard to balance the electronic time in my house” and they respond with a “I never let my kids touch a device and they never watch tv”. lol. I feel judged and belittled even if that isn’t their intent. My husband is a techy guy and half of my kids take after him. We have set electronic time for the kids, but in winter and times of sickness those hours tend to increase so it is something we have to constantly be aware of. I love though that one day I signed myself up for Roblox and joined my kids (ages 10-14) in a game. They were blown away that Mom did that! It was an awesome time for us and every now and then I will get on and play (horribly) with them. That gives me an idea of what they are doing and it brings us closer together even when i don’t get the game or why they like it!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That sounds like a healthy balance, Joanne!
      Screens aren’t going away; I think teaching kids how to be responsible with screens is part of helping them mature and be wise. Of course, we have to model that ourselves, but it is a crucial skill!

  4. Rachel C

    I know that I’m really lax with screen time for my kids because I always thought it was hypocritical of my parents to have major limits for me but none for themselves. My dad had the TV on other than during dinnertime when he got home from work until he went to bed. Sometimes we would all watch something together, but often he would just have the News or the history channel (on Sundays, it was football in the afternoons) on even if it seemed like he wasn’t paying a lot of attention to it because he often was reading a book at the same time.
    Now, my kids both know they get turns with the TV (and my oldest has access to the tablet) and that we do too. My oldest prefers mostly YouTube, but it’s signed in under my husband’s account, so we know what he’s watching. It’s a lot of people playing video games, a lot of Sonic, and a lot of Pokemon for him. My littlest watches a ton of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and today I put on PJ Masks as a change of background noise for me, and he’s enthralled. Of course, when school’s in session, my oldest has fewer hours at home, and this year, he has a kid his age living next door, and he spends a lot of time over there now, and it’s not constantly the tablet or Xbox over there either, so that’s a good thing. I do have some shows I watch, but I’m more of a reader in general, but my husband is a video game player and TV watcher, and my kids are like him so far. I just think it’s fine to have different interests that involve screens most of the time as long as it’s not interrupting responsibilities like homework and chores.

  5. Wild Honey

    When my oldest transitioned out of afternoon nap time (around 3 years old), she would get one show in the afternoon as a reward for doing her quiet time by herself. I can’t say enough good things about Daniel Tiger (we get it through Amazon Prime). The original Mr Rogers Neighborhood is also available through Amazon Prime. We also like Netflix’s Llama Llama series, based off the Anna Dewdney books.
    We also find ways to entertain the kids when we’re out and about that don’t involve an app on the phone. Bringing a small book in my purse or a notepad with crayons or even a ballpoint pen. Helping mom pick out produce or tell me the numbers on the bulk items bin to put in the tag. Sorting sweetener packets at the restaurant or taking a little walk (if it’s not super busy and crowded) around the tables while waiting for food. Playing “I spy” requires no extra supplies (stole this idea from a mom waiting in line at the cutting counter at the fabric store).
    We haven’t instituted this with our kids yet, but every summer growing up my family’s TV (we only had one) would go on “vacation.” Then once a week we’d have “classic movie night” as a family. It must have been bearable for my parents, because they kept doing it! Our consequence for whining too much about being bored was having to do an extra chore. Instead, we took lots of trips to the library (by ourselves on our bikes when we were old enough) and always went through stacks of books in the summer.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I love that! I read all the time too in the summer. I do worry that today’s kids don’t necessarily know the joy of books. I think the more we can encourage our kids to read, the better. It really is wonderful, and it changes your life as a parent once kids find chapter books they can read themselves!

  6. Rachel

    We’ve never had a specific time limit, but we try not to let our daughter (now 3) watch too much. She only gets 1 tv session a day, is day it’s usually a maximum of 1 hour. Now that I’m pregnant with our second and have a lot of appointments plus Pilates twice a week, the main times I give her screen time is on a predownloaded show in my phone at the Dr, Pilates, etc.
    But if has become more of a habit than a year – she’s started asking for it earlier and earlier in the day and more frequently… So I have actually started telling her that if she is grumpy/cries/keeps asking etc (ie has a tantrum when I say no not right now) then she won’t get any tv that day. Often she continues being grumpy, so I follow through! And if she asks again later I remind her why she can’t watch any today. So far it’s been working and she is starting to understand.
    In light of this, I have tried to be a lot more intentional about making sure she has free play time. It often takes her getting quite bored before she will start posting… But then she will pay for ages by herself! So I’m raising that if I can push through without the screens, she CAN actually just play and not be entertained all the time! And I’m so happy and thankful when it happens!


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