Screen-time hangover: The telltale signs your child may over the limit

It’s the eternal question of digital family life: How much screen-time is too much? The answer, say experts, lies in your child's behaviour.

Figuring out a healthy balance for our kids has never been easy. But in the time of Covid, the challenge has grown downright impossible.

With children transitioning to remote learning and parents working from home - or attempting to - the screen-time goalposts have moved dramatically. 

Add to that the seasonal spike in gaming, streaming and social media over the summer holidays, and the risk of screen-time blowout has never been more real.

One survey of more than 3000 parents found that kids’ screen-time had increased 500% during the pandemic. And even before Covid hit, children were spending far more time with devices than experts recommended. 

Ideal world v real world

The American Academy of Pediatrics, for example, currently advises no more than an hour of screen-time daily for pre-schoolers. In real life, the average two- to five-year-old spends more than twice as long in front of a screen (2 hours, 39 minutes).

Interestingly, the AAP no longer sets a specific screen-time limit for older kids, simply recommending that “digital media not interfere with physical activity or sleep.”

Experts are in increasing agreement that screens per se are not the enemy - but rather the sedentary lifestyle, social isolation and distractions from work and learning that may be encouraged by too much screen-time.

That makes setting screen-time boundaries hard. How can you tell when your child has had enough - or too much?

Watch out for these telltale signs that indicate they’ve gone over their own personal “legal limit” and need to take a breather.

Signs of overstimulation

We often think of screen-time as a passive or even mindless activity - but in many cases that couldn’t be further from the truth. The content kids interact with is often so compelling that their brains become overstimulated.

That can either look like a child “shutting down” and zoning out - or, confusingly, the exact opposite: that he’s bouncing off the walls. 


Signs of frustration

Parents frequently report more irritability in their kids after they play their favourite video game. But why? Consider the definition of frustration: the feeling of being upset or annoyed, especially because of inability to change or achieve something. Kids who are highly engaged in gaming really care about their performance, and may also perceive (correctly!) that they are being judged by their online peers. 

If you notice signs of irritability and frustration after gaming, experts recommend you help them develop “decompression strategies.” Ask them to talk about their gameplay when they are done playing. Processing their thoughts can be an efficient way of de-fusing frustrations. Also: make sure they’re not hungry or thirsty, and try to ensure they follow a gaming session with non-screen activities, whether physical or social.

Signs of fixation

There’s a fine line between fun and fixation. If your child seems to be developing a one-track mind, even when offline, that should set off alarm bells. Is Fortnite, or Minecraft, or Roblox, or a certain YouTuber the only thing he seems to talk about? If so, this is a clear early warning sign that it’s time to reconnect with interests and activities IRL (in real life).


With Family Zone's strong, flexible parental controls, it's easy to make on-the-go changes to your child's screen-time routines.

Find out how, and start your free trial today.


Tell me more!

Topics: Cyber Bullying, Parental Controls, Screen time, Mobile Apps, Excessive Device Usage, Cyber Safety, school holidays, gaming addiction, phone addiction

    Try Family Zone for FREE

    Sign up now to try Family Zone for 1 month, totally free of charge.

    Free Trial
    Subscribe to our newsletter
    Follow us on social media
    Popular posts
    Parental Controls | Mobile Apps | Cyber Safety | teens on social media
    Can we talk? 100 questions your teen might actually answer
    Parental Controls | Screen time | youtube | smartphones | WhatsApp | suicide | self-harm | momo
    MOMO unmasked
    Parental Controls | Cyber Safety | Cyber Experts | parenting | roblox
    Roblox: What parents need to know about this popular gaming platform
    Parental Controls | Cyber Safety | tinder | Cyber Experts | parenting | yellow
    Yellow: The Tinder for Teens
    Parental Controls | Social Media | privacy | decoy app
    Hide It Pro: A decoy app to look out for
    Cyber Bullying | Parental Controls | Screen time | Mobile Apps | Cyber Safety | online predators | tiktok | paedophile | child predator | Likee
    LIKEE: What parents need to know about this risky TikTok wannabe

    Recent posts

    Press the reset button on your kid’s online routine

    COVID blew up our teens’ screen-time. It’s time to get them back on track. In the wake of the COVID pandemic, our children are facing a ...

    Bigger families face super-sized screen-time challenges

    If you have more than one child - and statistics show 86 percent of families do - then managing screen-time can be double trouble. Or ...

    'Bigorexia' a growing risk for today's boys

    We’re starting to understand how social media can damage girls’ self-esteem - but what about our boys? New research finds disturbing ...

    The metaverse: Brave new world - or an upgrade for predators?

    Mixing kids and adult strangers in a self-moderated online environment ... What could possibly go wrong?