Screen Time: How can parents take control?

Is your teenager's screen time out of control? Well, let's talk about that today on Tips on Teens.
My name is Kent Toussaint. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, and I specialize in
helping kids, teens, and families to live happier lives. I lead two organizations, Teen Therapy
Center and the nonprofit 501c3 organization, Child and Teen Counseling, both here in Woodland
Hills, California. And every Wednesday at noon, I jump onto Facebook Live to answer your parenting
questions. Let's answer today's. My son is 13 and his screen time is getting out of control.
It wasn't really a problem for us until recently. We got him his own Chromebook a few months ago
because the school one wouldn't allow him to play Minecraft with his cousin remotely. Unfortunately,
it opened a Pandora's box. We are arguing with him about how much time he spends on the screen,
and last week, we caught him up at midnight watching YouTube. How do we establish some new rules
and clean up this mess? Thank you for

your question. I think this question, almost every one of my families I work with deals with
this in one way or another. We have to understand that at 13, he has a developing teenage brain,
which means he doesn't have a fully developed adult brain yet. So his prefrontal cortex, the
executive functioning part of the brain, is underdeveloped. It's not his fault. he's 13. But
things like impulse control, emotional regulation, the ability to see cause and effect is
impaired in him as opposed to an adult. So we have to understand that we can't expect him to act
and be mature in his decision -making. He's 13. So oftentimes what I see works is getting one
of these apps that you pay a monthly service or a yearly subscription where you put it on your
phone and on his computer and you can regulate how much time is spent on there, what apps, what
websites, things of that nature, what content you can have. None of them are perfect. Several
more pretty good. Go out and do your research, figure out which

one's best for you. Be prepared that you may have to get on the phone with customer service, figure
out why it's not working with the way you thought it was. Also, the problem is if you're going
to do a computer update, if you have not done a computer update, it might stop working. So you
may have to go and double check that Chromebook or laptop, whatever computer you're using,
to make sure that it's still working and workable. And what this does is it takes the it removes
you have from having to be the prison warden, we're always looking to see if you can catch up,
which makes you nervous makes him nervous doesn't help anybody. So but if you can have the program
set the time of Hey, he has access to Minecraft from time x to time y. And that's it, then you don't
worry about him doing it later on. If you know that YouTube is shut off at a certain time, you know
he won't be on a midnight on YouTube. You can shut off the whole computer that has no Wi -Fi access
for, you know, from whatever

time he's supposed to go to bed until he gets up in the morning. So you don't have to worry about
him being on there. None of them are perfect, again, but these help because it helps reduce some
of these arguments. Now, he may still get frustrated. He may still get mad and say, hey, all my
friends are online, I can't be online, it's not fair. And you may have to help him, guide him towards
other activities, family board game night, making cookies together, taking the dog for a walk,
shooting hoops in the front yard, whatever that is, you may have to help guide him because he
doesn't know how to self soothe because maybe his screen time usage has been since he was two,
you know, depending on who the kid is, right. And if kids have been raised, you know, digital
immigrants, I'm sorry, digital natives, we are digital immigrants, but digital natives,
people born into this digital world, oftentimes have been so used to having no sense of boredom,
because they never have boredom, because they

always have a screen, they have a hard time tolerating that. And of course, you take boredom
away, you take creativity away, take self exploration away, and self awareness away. So it's
important to have some of that downtime, to be bored to have your thoughts. So anyways, I would
encourage you to get one of those programs, work it out and work out with him, make sure he has
some voice in the limits and boundaries, create opportunities for him to earn more screen time.
Notice I said earn, not just, you know, not bribery, like, hey, you're doing all these things,
you join the track team, you're, you know, doing all your homework, you have earned a little
extra time. But again, it's about earning and not about extortion. You also want to make sure
that it's something that is within reasonable grasp. If it's too hard to do it, then, you know,
he gets deflated. Anyways, it's a big topic. I have sessions upon sessions talking about this,
so we're only doing a little bit of time here. But thank

you for your question. If you'd like me to answer your questions here on Tips on Teens, email
us at tipsonteens at teentherapycenter .com or direct messages right here on Facebook. We
love your questions. Also, you can join our Facebook group, Tips on Teens, and you can post the
questions there as well. Again, my name is Kent Toussaint with Teen Therapy Center and Child
and Teen Counseling, and I'll see you guys all next week. Bye bye.


Almost every family we work with here at Teen Therapy Center has some issues around screen time. Kids today were born as digital natives. In today’s digital age, children are growing up surrounded by screens and constant entertainment, leading to difficulties in self-soothing and coping without technology. This can result in various developmental issues, but that’s another topic. Right now you need to know how to get it under control.

First, understand that your 13 year old has a developing brain. Let’s just say executive functioning at this age is a work in progress. Thus, it’s unreasonable to expect your kid to make mature decisions. Instead of playing the role of the screen time sheriff though, do your research and get an app that will control and place limits on your kid’s screen activity for you. But before you implement this, let your kid have a voice in how much screen time they should have, and find a way to let them earn the screen time. Next you can work on teaching your kid how to live life beyond the screen.

There’s a bunch more to say about the topic, and we go onscreen to take on the topic in this Tips on Teens:

“My son is 13 and his screen time is getting out of control. It wasn’t really a problem for us until recently. We got him his own Chromebook a few months ago because the school one wouldn’t allow him to play Minecraft with his cousin remotely. Unfortunately it opened a Pandora’s box. We’re arguing with him about how much time he spends on the screen, and last week we caught him up at midnight watching YouTube. How do we establish some new rules and clean up this mess?

Clinical Director Kent Toussaint answers your parenting questions every Wednesday at 12:00pm in our weekly segment Tips On Teens on Facebook Live. Have questions about parenting kids and teens? Send them to: We love to hear from you!

Head on over to our Facebook page every Wednesday at 12:00pm to watch LIVE!  Check out our page here –

If you have more questions or would like more information, please contact our Clinical Director, Kent Toussaint at 818.697.8555.