Parents and Screen Time: Are You an “Access Denier” or a “Contract Creator” with Your Child?

Parents and screen time

In today’s digital landscape, our lives are deeply entwined with technology. From toddlers mesmerized by sparkling cartoons on tablets to teenagers hooked on social media and video games, screens have become ubiquitous in our children’s lives. As a result, parents find themselves at a crossroads, caught between the undeniable benefits and potential pitfalls of screen time. Navigating this digital maze is a challenging feat. It’s like walking a tightrope, trying to strike the perfect balance that ensures our children are not left behind in this technologically driven world while protecting them from the possible adverse effects of too much screen time.

This article delves into this pressing issue, unearthing the nuances of screen time and parenting in the digital age. We’ll explore two contrasting parenting styles that have emerged in response to this digital conundrum: the “Access Denier” and the “Contract Creator.” Each approach offers unique perspectives and strategies for managing your child’s screen time. Whether you’re a new parent trying to set up your child’s first tablet, or a seasoned parent struggling to limit your teenager’s late-night gaming sessions, this comprehensive guide offers valuable insights that can help you make informed decisions about your child’s digital consumption.

So, are you ready to unravel the mysteries of parenting in the digital age? Let’s dive in!

The Access Denier

The Access Denier is a parent who staunchly limits their child’s use of digital devices, often allowing only the bare minimum. This strict approach is not born out of malice but rather a deep-seated concern about the potential dangers and pitfalls of the digital world. Access Deniers are often wary of excessive screen time’s impact on a child’s physical and psychological development.

These parents hold steadfast to the belief that overindulgence in screen time can lead to many adverse outcomes. This could include reduced academic performance, as screen time often replaces time that could be spent on homework or reading. It might also manifest in behavioral issues, such as a lack of focus or increased aggression, often linked to violent or fast-paced video games. Health problems are also a significant concern, with sedentary screen time contributing to obesity and sustained focus on digital screens potentially leading to vision impairment.

Yet, Access Denier’s philosophy is about more than just preventing harm. These parents see immense value in the real world, often far outweighing anything the digital realm offers. They strongly emphasize physical activities, pushing their children to spend more time outdoors, engage in sports, or enjoy the natural world. Social interaction, too, is highly valued, focusing on cultivating face-to-face relationships rather than online ones.

The Access Denier also favors traditional learning methods like books and hands-on experiences. They see these as crucial tools for intellectual development, offering tangible, comprehensive learning experiences that screens often cannot provide.

Although the Access Denier approach might seem overly strict in a world increasingly leaning towards digital, these parents believe they are fostering a healthy, balanced lifestyle for their children, emphasizing real-world experiences and interpersonal connections over digital engagement.

The Contract Creator

Opposite the Access Denier, we find the Contract Creator. This parent recognizes that we live in a digital age and that using screens and technology is inevitable and beneficial when used appropriately. Instead of enforcing a strict no-screen policy, the Contract Creator opts for a more balanced approach, setting up a “contract” or guidelines that outline when, where, and how screens can be used.

The Contract Creator sees the digital world not as a threat but as an opportunity for growth and learning. They understand that technology is an integral part of our lives and that their child will need to develop digital skills to succeed in the future. They guide their children towards educational content, promoting screen time that enriches learning and expands their worldviews. For example, they might encourage their children to use apps that teach languages, enhance problem-solving skills, or foster creativity.

This parent believes a healthy relationship with technology involves understanding its potential benefits and drawbacks. The contract they devise is not merely a list of restrictions. It’s a comprehensive guide that helps their child understand the value of responsible digital use. This might include limitations on screen time per day, certain types of content restrictions, or rules about device-free times, like during meals or before bedtime.

The Contract Creator knows that rules must have reasoning to be effective. They take the time to explain why these guidelines are in place, fostering an understanding of the potential risks associated with excessive screen time or inappropriate content.

By implementing a contract, the Contract Creator aims to instill a sense of digital responsibility in their child. They aim to equip their child with the tools to navigate the digital world independently and make wise screen time decisions as they age.

In essence, the Contract Creator doesn’t seek to shield their child from the digital world but rather to prepare them for it. They recognize that their role is not to control but to guide and educate, helping their child harness the power of technology in a balanced and responsible way.

The Pros and Cons of Each Approach

The Access Denier and the Contract Creator approaches have merits and drawbacks, creating unique dynamics in how children interact with the digital world.

The Access Denier approach shines in its mission to shield children from the potentially harmful impacts of excessive screen time. This method often results in children having more time for physical activities, face-to-face social interaction, and traditional learning. These children might develop more vital social skills, a deeper appreciation for the physical world, and a more active lifestyle. They may also have fewer distractions from their academic tasks and responsibilities, potentially leading to better performance in school.

However, this approach also has its limitations. Children not exposed to technology in an increasingly digital world might feel included or supported. They may face challenges in keeping up with their peers regarding digital literacy, a skill that is becoming more crucial in our current society. Moreover, completely denying access to technology might make it more enticing, potentially leading to rebellion or secretive behavior around screens.

Meanwhile, the Contract Creator approach embraces the digital age, acknowledging that screens are here to stay. This method empowers children to navigate the digital world, building necessary skills for the future. By creating and enforcing a contract, these parents can provide a framework for responsible screen use, turning potential screen time pitfalls into opportunities for learning and growth. Children raised with this approach may develop better digital literacy skills, a more robust understanding of online etiquette, and a more mature attitude toward technology use.

Nonetheless, the Contract Creator’s approach has its challenges. Even with a contract, enforcing the rules and ensuring responsible use can be demanding. Children might still be tempted to push boundaries or neglect other important activities in favor of screen time. Parents also require significant effort to constantly monitor and update the contract as the child grows and the digital landscape evolves.

In summary, each approach has its unique pros and cons. However, it’s important to note that neither approach is absolute. Parenting is not black and white but a spectrum of strategies that can be adapted. It’s up to each parent to decide which strategy aligns best with their parenting philosophies and their child’s needs.

physical activity

Striking a Balance: A Hybrid Approach

Given the complexities of the digital age and the unique strengths and weaknesses of both the Access Denier and Contract Creator approaches, many experts suggest that a hybrid approach might be the most effective way forward. This approach involves adopting the best practices from both ends of the spectrum to create a balanced, flexible digital parenting strategy.

The hybrid approach acknowledges technology’s integral role in our lives, much like the Contract Creator approach. It understands that denying access to screens is impractical and that children must develop digital literacy skills to succeed in an increasingly digital world. As such, it encourages using technology for educational and developmental purposes.

However, this approach also shares Access Denier’s concerns about the potential negative impacts of excessive screen time. As such, it places great emphasis on setting clear boundaries and rules around the use of screens. This might involve designated screen-free times, limits on the use of devices in bedrooms or during family meals, and restrictions on certain types of content.

Like the Contract Creator, the hybrid approach sees the value in creating a contract or a set of guidelines for screen use. This contract should be transparent, fair, and adaptable, changing as the child grows and their needs evolve. But it also goes one step further, involving the child in creating these rules. This fosters a sense of ownership and responsibility, making the child more likely to adhere to the rules.

At the same time, the hybrid approach also encourages a wide range of offline activities, echoing Access Denier’s belief in the importance of real-world experiences. It promotes physical activity, face-to-face social interaction, and traditional forms of learning, ensuring that screens only partially replace these valuable experiences.

Combining the strengths of the Access Denier and Contract Creator approaches, the hybrid approach aims to prepare children for the digital future without sacrificing their physical health, social skills, or real-world experiences. The ultimate goal of the hybrid system is to help children develop a healthy, balanced relationship with technology. It’s about teaching them that screens can be beneficial and entertaining, but they are just one aspect of a rich, varied life.


Ultimately, whether you choose to be an Access Denier, a Contract Creator, or somewhere in between, what matters most is your child’s well-being. It’s essential to keep the lines of communication open, remain flexible, and adjust your approach as your child grows and the digital landscape evolves.

In an era where screens are everywhere, it’s not about eliminating screen time but about teaching our children how to use technology in a balanced, responsible way.

A writer and mother working to provide the best advice and support for navigating the internet in a safe and secure manner.