Navigating Screen Time Use

Children are often happy and quiet when they have a device in their hands (*sigh* peace and quiet). However, we know that children do not learn best from screens. Two new studies have shown that screen time can decrease the young child’s words and sentences, resulting in delayed language development.

Screen time can also influence young children’s social skills, sensory needs and behavior and promote vocabulary use beyond their comprehension and inappropriate for their age.

Screens aren’t all bad! We know that they can serve as a helpful tool during chaotic times of the day or when the adult simply needs a break. They also allow for us to stay connected with friends and family around the world (video chat), and they can help support child/adult relationships when shows are watched together and conversations are had after watching. Nature shows or videos of people doing extraordinary or ordinary activities can also open up the child to new ideas and thoughts.

A healthy relationship with screens relies on the adult finding balance between saying yes while also establishing firm and consistent limits. Below are some tips to help you navigate screen use for your child.

What to Look For
Ways to decide what shows are right for your child and family:

  • Slow Paced and Low Stimulation – avoid shows that have scenes less than 4 seconds long
  • Calm Vibes – no yelling/whining/negative talk
  • Reality Based (as much as possible)
  • Clear Message
  • Age-Appropriate
  • Shows that use no more than 2 sounds at a time.
  • Avoid shows with advertisements
  • Choose shows that promote topics and messages that you care about.
  • Representation Matters – are there harmful stereotypes about gender, race, class structure, etc. being perpetuated by the characters or storyline?

General Screen Time Tips
Watch Together – the best way to know if a show is right for your family is to watch with your child.

Make Connections – if you are watching a show where the character goes to the beach, connect with your child that you also go to the beach.

Have Discussions – talk about what you are watching, ask questions, follow up.

Avoid using screens for emotional regulation and managing feelings.

Limit your personal use of screen time when you are with your child. The adult is the model, if we are always on our phone, the child is going to want to do the same.

Turn off screens when they are not in use.

Avoid shows that annoy or frustrate you. We are more likely to set fair limits for screen use when we are in a state of calm.

When using a phone or tablet at a restaurant, wait to turn it on a show for your child until after you order food. Give them some time to settle in and converse with you.

Make it fun! Implement a “Movie Night Friday” or try out “Nature Show Sunday”.

Signs of Overstimulation
It is time to turn off the TV, tablet or phone when you notice your child doing one or more of the following:

  • trance or zombie-Like state
  • cannot respond to you
  • trouble making eye contact
  • chewing on fingers or clothing
  • tantrums or aggressive behavior when interrupted or told the screen will be turned off.

Steps for Turning Off Screens
Make a family “media plan” so the child knows what to expect. Establish a predictable screen time schedule or routine that is clear and consistent.

Turn all screens off at the same time every night and avoid screens at least 1 hour before you begin the bedtime routine.

Let the child know exactly how long they can use their screen. Use the timer on the TV or set an analog timer.

Give the child a 15 minute, 5 minute and 1 minute warning. Tap them on the shoulder, pause the show or make eye contact so you know they heard you:

“You have 15 minutes until we turn off the tablet… You get to watch your show for 5 more minutes… You have 1 minute left. Pau. Good night TV… Good night tablet.”

Shows and Movies We Love
Nature Shows – Chasing Coral, Secrets of Whales, Dolphin Reef, Our Planet & Our Planet II, Wild Babies, Puff Wonders of the Reef, Elephant

Movies – Moana, Encanto, Ferdinand

TV Shows – Bluey, Trash Truck, Guess How Much I Love You?, Stella & Sam, Pete the Cat, Molly of Denali, Puffin Rock, Daniel Tiger, Tumble Leaf, Sesame Street, Bug Diaries, Doc McStuffins, Alma’s Way, Ada Twist, Scientist

YouTube – Miss Katie Sings, Gracie’s Corner, Videos of Daily Life – garbage trucks picking up trash, construction trucks working, people riding trains, people dancing hula, playing instruments, etc.

Shows and Movies to Avoid
Movies – Avoid anything with violence, fighting, mean and inappropriate language or interactions, death, adult subjects, sexual content, superheros…

TV Shows – Cocomelon, Go Buster, Ms. Rachel, Baby Einstein, Peppa Pig, PJ Masks, Caillou, Paw Patrol, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse

YouTube – The Wiggles, Caitie’s Classroom, Hey Bear

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends zero screen time for children under the age of 18 months old. From 18 months – 5 years it is recommended to have up to 1-2 hours per day of high quality programming.

About Hala Kahik

Designed for children 18 months – 6 years, Hala Kahiki is the first and only authentic Montessori school on Lāna’i.  Under the guiding influence of specially trained teachers, children work with multi-sensorial materials to help them learn to think critically and become well-rounded global citizens.  We would love to partner with you to give your children the best-possible early childhood education; please let us know how we can help you achieve your goals for your child.

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254 Houston Street

Lāna‘i, Hawaii

Licensing & Accreditation

Hala Kahiki is licensed by the State of Hawaii Department of Human Services. The third year of its Primary program (kindergarten) is also licensed by the Hawaii Council of Private Schools (HCPS). Additionally, the school is approved by the State of Hawaii Department of Health to provide limited food service.


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