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How do I tell other parents my media rules?

Lay out your family's screen time habits so you can send your kid on playdates worry-free.

Topics: Screen Time

Every family has a different way of doing things. And as you're getting to know new families through your kids' budding friendships, it's important to respect that. Laying out a list of screen rules every time you drop off your kid is no fun, plus it can come off as judgy and intrusive. Still, no one wants to find out after the fact that the kids had a three-hour unsupervised TikTok fest. So, how do you establish boundaries with other parents? You model them. Here's how to do that:

Whenever you host a playdate:

Clearly state your media rules. Tell the other parent what rules you set in your home for movies, games, and apps. Be as specific as possible about the time limits, types of media, and content you allow and don't allow.

  • Say, "Here's the plan for today … "

Share the titles. If your kid is currently into a certain show or game, it's likely they'll want to enjoy it with their friend. Tell the other parent that you're comfortable with, for example, the kids watching two or three episodes of The Mandalorian after they get back from riding bikes.

Get the other parent's OK. Remember, the other parent may not like your media rules. And if you want them to respect yours, you need to return the favor.

  • Ask, "Is this OK with you?" And if they're on the fence, ask them for other suggestions.

Make sure your kid knows the rules. Discuss any media rules with your kid in advance and make sure they know that playdates depend on them being responsible about sticking to the rules.

Be consistent. The more you set the ground rules at your home around media and tech, the more other parents will start to expect it from you. And if you're lucky, they'll start following your lead.

Pick your battles

If your kid ends up seeing stuff at someone else's house that you wouldn't have OK'ed, it's not likely to do much damage. (The "Talk to Your Kids About … " section on each review page can be helpful if this happens.) Restate your rules with your kid, but don't put too much pressure on them to uphold your rules when they're on their own. They're still learning how to do that. And if you freak out because their friend showed them an off-limits video, they might not tell you about it next time. If it was egregious (porn, explicit R-rated movie, etc.), you might consider having an open, nonjudgmental conversation with the other parent. And next time, invite the kid to your place!

Caroline Knorr
Caroline is Common Sense Media's former parenting editor. She has many years of editorial and creative marketing writing experience and has held senior-level positions at Walmart.com, Walmart stores, Cnet, and Bay Area Parent magazine. She specializes in translating complex information into bite-sized chunks to help families make informed choices about what their kids watch, play, read, and do.