screen time cards for digital kids: easy tool for monitoring screen time

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screen time cards


My digital kids have been using Game Time Cards for the last few years, and it’s been a huge, huge, HUGE help in keeping their screen time in check.

Game Time Cards allowed us to put some of the ownership of our children’s time in front of the screen on them.

The concept was simple: the kids would choose to ‘use a ticket’ at designated times to play with the LeapPad, Leapster, or Nintendo DS.  We followed a set of general guidelines based on the AAP Media recommendations. It worked for us–then.

Now? With a 9-year-old, an 8-year-old, and a 6-year-old, our needs are a bit different. It was time for some changes, and it was time for the kids to have more of a say in how it worked.

So we re-vamped our Game Time Cards.

I’m hoping it works.  Actually, we’re all feeling pretty confident.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Screen Time Cards For Digital Kids — Easy Tool for Monitoring Screen Time: So after the millionth weekend in a row where every other second the kids were asking to get on the touch screen, the iPad, the you name it, I nearly lost my sanity.


screen time cards: manage kids' screen time

 old cards. . . ready for an upgrade

screen time cards: manage kids' screen time

It’s an absolutely gorgeous day outside. Go. Out. And. PLAAAAAAY. I pretty much screamed six thousand times.

But Moooooom. It’s my turn on the [insert device].

[insert kid name] has been on the [insert device] forEVER. It’s my turn!

I haven’t been on the [insert device] for even HALF the time that [insert kid name] has. It’s not FAIR!

Over. And over. And over.

So our ‘free Wii on weekends’ had somehow morphed into ‘free electronics on weekends’ which was ultimately causing our family an insane amount of stress and anxiety.  We needed to reign in all in.

screen time cards comparison

screen time cards for digital kids: easy tool for monitoring screen time

We sat down after dinner one night and really fleshed it all out.

We called a Family Meeting to get to the bottom of our screen time issues. And after a lot of back and forth, we came up with the following agreement and a new name. Gone are the ‘Game Time Cards’ and in are the ‘Screen Time Cards’.

Screen Time Guidelines — some new, some already established:

  • Screen time starts after school–no screen time in the morning before school;
  • New week start on Monday, but Mondays are completely unplugged days;
  • Each child chose a card color: Maddy is green; Owen is white; Cora is purple;
  • Each child has 4- 30-minute cards and 4- 15-minute cards, totaling three hours of screen time a week;

screen time cards for digital kids: easy tool for monitoring screen time

  • Every week, the kids have the chance to earn two extra 30-minute cards depending on behavior and attitude that week;
  • Earned cards will be placed in charts Saturday morning;
  • Kids can cash in their cards whenever they want, but when they’re gone, they’re gone;
  • Devices are used in living room, downstairs, but not up in bedrooms;
  • Screen Time Cards can be used for the iPad, Nintendo DS, LeapPad, Wii, mobile devices, or computer.

Each child is responsible for keeping his or her own time, and it was their responsibility to be honest–or future cards would be lost.

The new screen time cards can be downloaded for your own use; just print the first page a different color for each child.


screen time cards: manage kids’ screen time by teach mama


Our weeknights are so busy that we rarely turn on the television, and we often have family Wii parties and movie nights together. That screen time was fine in our books since it is together time and closely monitored.

As soon as we had the parameters down, I got to work.

screen time cards for digital kids: easy tool for monitoring screen time

I needed to create a new set-up for the cards. . .

screen time cards for digital kids: easy tool for monitoring screen time

So I cut a large envelope in half and taped it shut. . .

screen time cards for digital kids: easy tool for monitoring screen time

. . . then I added the kids’ names.

screen time cards for digital kids: easy tool for monitoring screen time

Finally, I used the cork board already in the Craft Room because it was central and easy for everyone to reach.

Cards are IN using the envelopes with the kids’ names, and they are OUT in the ‘out’ folders.

Earned cards will rest in the ‘Earned’ envelope until the weekend hits.

screen time cards for digital kids: easy tool for monitoring screen time

screen time cards for digital kids: easy tool for monitoring screen time

screen time cards for digital kids: easy tool for monitoring screen time

Is it perfect? No way. Again, it is  a work in progress.

And when and if our kids get their own mobile devices, this plan will need a definite re-vamp.

We’re learning as we go, and trying our very best at the most difficult job out there.  And what I know for sure is that something needed to change, and we’re hoping that this system–which Maddy, Owen, and Cora helped us design–will be best for everyone.

Our Screen Time Cards are designed with our kids’ best interest in mind, knowing that we, as parents, need to establish healthy ‘media diets’ early for our family.our digital kids

On October 28, 2013, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a new statement on media consumption–one that replaces the 2001 statement (finally, right?). The recommendations for parents are:

  • Parents can model effective “media diets” to help their children learn to be selective and healthy in what they consume. Take an active role in children’s media education by co-viewing programs with them and discussing values.
  • Make a media use plan, including mealtime and bedtime curfews for media devices. Screens should be kept out of kids’ bedrooms.
  • Limit entertainment screen time to less than one or two hours per day; in children under 2, discourage screen media exposure.

Want more? Visit the AAP Media & Children page; the AAP Media Kit, or the 10/28/13 AAP Managing Media statement.


fyi: affiliate links are used in this post




  1. Dana says

    Wow! I’ve tried many variations of this over the weekend. Currently, they get one hour a day of anything with a screen. They can bank their time if they want to play longer on the weekend or whatever. But everything resets on Mondays.

  2. says

    This is such a great idea – I love it! My kids are old now – 17-26. But when they were little we had a two hour a week screen time rule unless it was a family movie, which we only did once every week or two.

    My 26 year old just told me that he thought we were mean at the time to only let them have that much screen time but he’s grateful for it now because he’s met all kinds of kids his age who were allowed unlimited screen time and that’s all they ever did. They don’t have the great memories that he has.

    It’s a sacrifice for us moms – cuz it would be easier to plop them in front of the tv or a computer, but worth it for the kids. :)

  3. says

    We too are in need of a rework with screen time. Our oldest self-moderates and always has. He made it easy on us, choosing non screen time more often and never showing signs of “addiction” to the screen at all. Our last 2, a totally different story! They are showing signs of little to NO self moderation and need us to step in even more than we already have been to help them moderate.

    Love your idea, we have a family meeting planned soon and were planning to discuss a new system, I look forward to sharing your ideas to see how it might be able to work for us!

    • says

      Carisa! You and I are in the same boat–my oldest is fab at self-moderating, and my younger two? Not so much. Sharing about our Family Media Contract tomorrow….GREAT resource!!

      And please let me know how it goes for you or if you need anything else–happy to help you, my sweet, sweet friend!

  4. says

    Love these cards! I am printing them off tonight–since my kiddos have been spending and begging for too much time on our new iPads.

    Just curious: What do you do when child has earned time, and another child hasn’t? Or, for example: Billy uses his card and watches a show (while Sally watches along with him). Then Sally wants to cash in her card (and Billy watch along–so they actually end up with 60 minutes instead of 30???) It seems like if one child is watching, everyone is going to be watching. I would love to hear your ideas, since I haven’t wrapped my brain around this one yet. Historically at my house, if one child has screen time, every child has screen time at the same time (but they may be on different devices).

    • says

      Thank you thank you, my friend! Glad you like them! We are pretty strict when it comes to watching videos/ tv. If they want to use the iPads/ computer, it’s for games or playing–not watching videos.

      We sometimes experience the same thing–and with three kids, it could mean a LOT of screen time. But I look at it this way: with our ‘unplugged Monday’ and homework and other activities, if they are spending maybe 2-3 days together, hanging with each other using their Screen Time Cards and watching each other play, it’s cool with me.

      I don’t know–I’m learning as I go, too. Let’s stay in touch and keep this conversation going!!

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