The Tablet Tug-O-War

“Ahhhh, all is right in the world.”

Until it's time to take the tablet away.

This is where SCREEN TIME turns to SCREAM TIME.

Screens are hypnotic to our brains! The light, the sounds, the rhythm of the images - it’s all just magical! The screen is so stimulating and puts the brain into a state of flow.

Do you ever notice when your husband is watching a football game or when your toddler is on Youtube that it seems the outside world just doesn’t exist? During these moments, our brains produce dopamine, a neurotransmitter which relieves stress and pain. The brain is saying, “ahhhh, all is right in the world.” That is, until you abruptly turn the screen off… PANIC! The brain is quickly thrown out of the hypnosis, the dopamine levels in the body drop fast, the transition came with no warning! This abrupt drop in dopamine, the physical shock, can actually result in a sense of physical pain in a little body. This is where SCREEN TIME turns to SCREAM TIME.

I get it, parents just need to get things done from time to time and for many children, a screen is a guaranteed way to keep them still for a long enough period of time to actually get the dishes done! So what’s a parent to do?

Here are some strategies to make the transition away

from the screen a little easier:

1. Set clear expectations for screen time and communicate those to your child. 2. Choose interruptible activities, an app that has levels or a show that has a definitive end. Try to set the timer to correspond with that stopping point. 3. Schedule a highly desirable activity right after screen time. 4. Let them know beforehand what the plan is when screen time is up. 5. Use timed screen limits. Timers give your child warning for when the screen time is coming to an end. The trick here is to use an electronic or visual timer, not your voice. The warning prepares kids for an upcoming change, but when that warning comes from a person, it can trigger the child’s resistance and give them time to work up an argument. Your child simply can’t argue with a timer! For young children, use a visual timer. There are great apps that have visual timers for children. My favorite is THIS visual countdown timer app. Tip, turn off the ticking sound in the settings! 6. Before the end of screen time (about 30 seconds), enter your child’s world and make a few statements or ask them a few questions about what they’re doing. This helps to build a bridge back to reality before the timer goes off. This makes the transition less shocking and abrupt. 7. Have a reward in place for transitioning without tears or a battle and give them very behavior specific praise for doing so! As soon as the iPad hits your hands or as soon as the screen goes off with no fight, hand your child their favorite snack or a special sticker and let them know, “Thank you so much for giving Mom the iPad and having a calm voice! That makes me so happy!” This reinforcement after the transition will make it more likely that your child will transition smoothly next time as well!

Not all screen time is created equal!

When your child does have screen time, it is important to try to make sure they’re watching something that is engaging or that requires them to participate in some way. Here are some of my favorite screen time options with links!

To Watch:

CosmicKids Yoga

Cincinnati Zoo Facebook Live Home Safari

Virtual Breakfast Series and St. Louis Aquarium

PBS Kids

To Play:

ABC Mouse


PBS Kids

Play Apps:

Busy Shapes

Monkey Preschool Lunchbox

Peek A Boo Barn

Toca Boca Doctor

Tozzle—Toddler’s Favorite Puzzle

Sensory Apps:

Baby’s Musical Hands

HFHS Particles

Heat Pad


#behavior #screentime #transitions #apps