How To Turn Off The TV Without Causing A Meltdown

Here's a handy guide for parents to limit their children's screen time.
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Helping kids regulate their own media use is an ongoing process, and along the way you’re likely to experience some struggles when it’s time to turn off the TV or any other digital device.

When it’s time to transition from TV watching to another activity, using prerecorded shows comes in handy. On traditional broadcast TV, one show flows into another, but when you use the DVR, a DVD, or even a streaming-video service, the end of a show sends a clear signal that it’s time to turn off the TV.

If you don’t have any of these options, consider using the “watch later” feature on YouTube. The site allows you to select and add videos to a playlist. Your kids can simply watch what you’ve selected together.

To mitigate the meltdowns, try these things:

Have a plan

Explain beforehand to your kid that he or she can watch a certain number of shows or for a specific time period. Let them know what to expect after the show, too.

Create a routine

Kids who know they have to turn off the TV before a specific activity (like dinner) can sometimes transition more easily.

Show your kids how to turn off the TV

They may enjoy practicing that skill, and it will give them some power over their situation, which they’ll appreciate.

Avoid back-to-back shows

If you’re using a streaming service, disable the setting that automatically plays the next show in a series.

Give a two-minute warning

Prepping kids for the inevitable works for some.

Turn it off and stick to your guns

Some kids react better when they’re not warned in advance that the show is ending ― possibly because they’ve come to expect the fight.

Give praise

If your child successfully transitions to another activity without a meltdown, show your appreciation. Say something like, “Thanks for turning off the TV and coming to set the table!” Kids will be more likely to follow through again when they have a positive experience.

The Child Mind Institute contributed to this article. Learn more at