Screen Time Transitions

Prior work shows that setting limits on young children’s screen time is conducive to healthy development but can be a challenge for families. We investigate children’s (age 1 – 5) transitions to and from screen-based activities to understand the boundaries families have set and their experiences living within them. We report on interviews with 27 parents and a diary study with a separate 28 families examining these transitions. These families turn on screens primarily to facilitate parents’ independent activities. Parents feel this is appropriate but self-audit and express hesitation, as they feel they are benefiting from an activity that can be detrimental to their child’s well-being. We found that families turn off screens when parents are ready to give their child their full attention and technology presents a natural stopping point. Transitioning away from screens is often painful, and predictive factors determine the pain of a transition. Technology-mediated transitions are significantly more successful than parent-mediated transitions, suggesting that the design community has the power to make this experience better for parents and children by creating technologies that facilitate boundary-setting and respect families’ self-defined limits.



Alexis Hiniker
Hyewon Suh
Sabrina Cao
Julie Kientz


  • Hiniker, A., Suh, H., Cao, S., & Kientz, J. A. (2016, May). Screen Time Tantrums: How Families Manage Screen Media Experiences for Toddlers and Preschoolers. In Proceedings of the 2016 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 648-660). ACM.