Primary Care in Rochester and Kasson

Learning Rule No. 2 in 5-2-1-0 Program: Limit screen time

9/8/2022 by Tammy Schmit, R.N.


The 5-2-1-0 Program provides parents with a simple guide and tips for helping their kids reach and maintain a healthy weight and overall wellness. Rule No. 2 in this program stands for limiting screen time to two hours a day. 

Screen time includes watching TV, playing video games, using computer applications and interacting on tablets. But why should parents be concerned about that? 

Research shows that screen time is associated with less physical activity, eating more processed snacks, and lack of sleep or poor-quality sleep — all of which are linked to a greater risk for obesity and diseases like diabetes. 

Myths about screen time

Parents give many reasons for screen time being a default or habit, such as:

  • Myth No. 1
    It's easy and convenient to use screen time, such as using a video as a babysitter. But kids coming off a "screen high" is equivalent to them coming down from a sugar high. 
  • Myth No. 2
    It's educational. Research shows that, unless an adult is watching with them, kids lack the social connection to help them make sense of what they're viewing and the world around them. 
  • Myth No. 3
    It helps my child focus. Research has shown a link between screen time and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. If your child can focus on hours of TV, video and computer games but can't sit still during school or classroom time, it could be a sign of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. 

How to reduce screen time

Screen time isn't a given, and parents can take control. One of the best ways to approach this goal is as a family. 

Here are some questions your might discuss: 

  • What is screen time for your family?
  • When is it available each day and for how long?
  • What are some other choices for healthy activities you could do as a family? Some options might be games, music, sports, outdoor activities or crafts. 

These three creative techniques can help you take control and cut down on your child's screen time — and your own:

Use a checklist. The kids must complete three or more items on the checklist before screen time. 

  • Read for 20 minutes. 
  • Play outside or work on a craft or project for 30–60 minutes. 
  • Finish homework, including math problems. 
  • Write in a journal for 10 minutes. 
  • Complete an assigned chore. 
  • Clean their room and make the bed. 

Manage media choices. 

  • Designate bedrooms as "screen-free zones."
  • Use screens sparingly with kids 2 and under. 
  • Choose age-appropriate and quality shows, games and apps. 
  • Stay involved with the kids' screen time habits by viewing with them. 
  • Create a reward plan with firm but reasonable rules about family media use. 
  • Make a rule about no screens during meals. 
  • Identify a "family fun space" for working on crafts, putting on plays, playing board games or cards — with no screens allowed. 

Designate a weekly "Unplugged Day."

  • Set an example: Meditate, journal, read or exercise. 
  • Identify an evening as a board game night. 
  • Make supper together as a family.
  • Buy pedometers for the family and see who gets the most steps in that day. 

Decide what the reward should be for taking control of screen time. But make sure it is not more screen time. 

Reaching and maintaining a lifelong healthy weight for everyone in your family is a great goal, and it's doable. Your health care team can provide you with more down-to-earth information and tips that even busy families can work into their schedules. 

If you'd like to do more reading about screen time, these are excellent resources: 

Find out about Rule No. 1, one hour of physical activity, in an upcoming article. 

Tammy Schmit, R.N., is the nurse manager in Community Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota.