Kids, Parenting

Summer screen time plan: Downtime

Summer vacation is a mere two days away now!!

We’ve been trying to start thinking through our summer screen time plans. I think we might be onto something that will work for us, and it involves the use of the iPhone’s “Downtime” feature.

We tried to think about what matters to our boys, and discussed with them. These items include:

  • DAILY time to “check” their games/ devices (they prefer shorter amount EVERY day vs. longer/ unlimited time on other days)
  • The ability to play when their friends are (i.e. not limiting them to only rigid, specific time slots, arbitrarily, that might not match up with their BFF’s availability).
  • They both enjoy some morning screen time, especially on “lazy” days (days they don’t have to go anywhere/ nothing pressing to do). They both ranked this very highly- they love to wake up and then lounge for a bit, playing on their phone or game, before getting on with the rest of the day. (Neither of my boys are late sleepers (yet?).)
  • They want COMMUNICATION access to be fairly unrestricted (as do I). The reality is, we don’t have a home phone line. If kids are going to meet up at the pool, or the park, or want to get together, I want the boys to be freely reachable by their friends. So, we all agreed that access to their texts/ phone calls was a high priority. (Meaning, the answer to screen time dilemmas can’t be for me to just confiscate their phone all day.)

What we do NOT want:

  • Constant, unlimited scrolling, video watching, playing games, etc., every 5 minutes, during the entire day. We (Ivan and I) told them we want them to have “blocks” of time that they can play, but then other, big, long stretches of time when the phone is simply not an option.
  • I do not want to have to “babysit” their phones. (I usually work in the basement. So, even if we, say, park the phones in the kitchen drawer during the day during “non-use” times, I’m simply not up there to see what they are actually doing!!) But as stated above, I do want them to have access to their phones to receive texts/ calls. Therefore, this was an area we thought hard on. I am not interested in having to monitor where the phone is, if someone was actually “playing a round” instead of checking for texts, etc.

Our Solution= DOWNTIME

We’ve landed on using the iPhone’s Downtime feature.

Both of the boys’ phones are linked to our Apple IDs, so we can control things on theirs from our phones.

The Downtime feature allows us to essentially turn their smartphones into dumb phones– PERFECT!!

We have them both set so that when in Downtime, they can make phone calls and receive texts- and that is it! No apps, no games, not even Safari/ web browsing/ going to to watch videos instead of the app….. (You can personalize which apps are allowed during Downtime- we just blocked everything for now. Just FYI though- it is customizable.)

Our Plan:

* Allow X amount of time in the morning (the exact time will depend on Asher’s a.m. swim practice schedule/ Ethan’s work hours- may vary day to day). But we’ll probably allow an hour or so in the a.m., but not before a certain time.

*After the allotted time is done, I will switch their phones into Downtime. (I can do this from my own phone in 1 second- very easy). They will then be free to ride bikes, play board games, read, play with friends, do chores, etc. etc. etc. 😉

*Then, sometime later in the afternoon/ evening, after a “screen free day”, I will unblock them for another session. When that’s done, I’ll probably put them back on Downtime until the next day.

Some reasons I like this:

  • It’s easy
  • It’s flexible and can be controlled from my phone. (For example- let’s say the phone is in Downtime, and Ethan is at a friend’s house. Maybe it starts to pour outside, and all the boys there want to play video games for a bit. Maybe, under the circumstances, I’m fine with that, on that day. He can just send a request through asking for “more time”- which I can approve (or deny), from my phone, for 15 minutes, 1 hour, or just unblock it. I like that it’s not SO RIGID, because I think over-rigidity is a recipe for disaster.
  • I love that it allows them to still have their phone with them (if biking alone to a friend’s, I WANT THEM TO HAVE THEIR PHONE!), but takes away the option of constant gaming/ video watching. Perfect.

I do think the Downtime feature has lots of room for improvement. I wish it had options to set multiple schedules (currently can only set one recurring schedule, like for overnight use). For our purposes, we’ll have to do a lot of manual turning it on and off. (Apple, if you’re reading this, take note. 😂 What’s that? Apple people don’t read this blog?? Oh, fine then. 😜)

But I’m feeling pretty content with this plan. They do also use the Xbox for gaming, but that is easier to control (much more obvious when they’re on it….). We’ve told them they don’t get separate phone + xbox time…. During their “screen time”, they can use whichever they want, so choose wisely, because when it’s done, they are both off limits.

Anyone use Downtime for teen phone control?? We’ve been trialing it lately, and so far, so good. 👍 The key for us has been the combo of game/video/app control + still having text access.

Daily Gratitude:

I am grateful for Ted Lasso. It is seriously THE BEST show!! We just finished Season 2 last night…now we have to wait for the new season to come out. If you haven’t watched it, DO IT. Hilarious, heart warming, so entertaining… just great.

6 thoughts on “Summer screen time plan: Downtime”

  1. We use downtime for our kids, and use it also to turn off devices completely overnight (they are all supposed to bring them up outside their room but it’s in case they forget). I’ve found it really easy to use but still need to learn the finer details of it!

    Mine will be at a day camp all summer so it isn’t as necessary for me to figure this out yet, but next year my oldest will be home much more!


  2. I love how collaborative you are with your kids in arriving at solutions that is agreeable to all. My daughter is just a year and half old, but I can’t help worry already how I will cope up with pre-teen and teen years.


  3. I can’t believe Summer is here already. it’s still 2 weeks away for us and I have zero plan for the moment. In general, my girls don’t have access to screen at all during the week except for zoom class but they are less these days. I think having a limit for the boys is a great idea so you don’t need to micro manage. It’s great that you had a discussion on their priorities, I’ll do the same with my girls.


  4. My kids, like most I suspect, love screens. They’re too young for having phones, but I’m so conscious of how much they see their peers + every adult on the planet on their phones and they watch plenty of movies/video games. I’m mostly okay with it now because we balance that with a lot of outdoor/family activity (and if I’m being honest, I watched quite a bit of TV when I was a kid)…but it’s more the future I worry about once they ARE old enough to need their own devices.
    Sounds like you’ve got a great plan. All the best with the execution. Your boys seem very well rounded, and I have a hunch this will go remarkably smoothly ❤


  5. I love that you considered what your kids wanted when coming up with this plan. And it sounds like a good one and something that will be fairly easy to administer! I don’t look forward to dealing with this sort of thing when our kids are older. It’s still far off for us but I am sure it will be here before we know it.

    I wonder when/if your kids will sleep later! I feel like my nephews around Ethan’s age were very into sleeping in by age 11 or 12? But maybe he is just going to be an early bird?!? I don’t remember when I started to love sleeping in, but I feel it must have happened during the middle school years.


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